Pa. Attorney General renews pursuit of criminal charges against Amtrak engineer

Philadelphia Business Journal

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is appealing a judge’s September decision to toss criminal charges against Brandon Bostian, the engineer who was driving Amtrak Train 188 when it derailed in May 2015, injuring hundreds and killing eight.

Shapiro’s office said Tuesday it has filed a notice of appeal of to Common Pleas Judge Thomas Gehret’s dismissal of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges.

“The Office of Attorney General has filed its notice of appeal of the Municipal Court decision in the Amtrak case,” spokesman Joe Grace said. “We are seeking a legal determination based on the proper standard for a preliminary hearing.”

The appeal received support from attorneys Robert J. Mongeluzzi and Thomas R. Kline, who represented the majority of the derailment victims in their civil case that resulted in a $265 million settlement.

“The victims of Amtrak 188 are gratified to see the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s appeal of a ruling which we believe to have been fundamentally flawed given the standard for a preliminary hearing and the facts and circumstances of Mr. Bostian operating a train at 106 miles an hour in a 50 mile-an-hour zone, which caused so much human devastation and death,” the lawyers said in a statement.

Judge Gehret’s decision came during a preliminary hearing that included testimony from a Philadelphia Police Department officer, who said another electronic device was found in Bostian’s backpack in the train’s locomotive.

He said the deadly crash was “more likely an accident than criminal negligence.”

This will be the second time the attorney general has stepped in to bring about criminal charges against Bostian. Shapiro filed the the involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in May after a legal filing by a victim’s family compelled Municipal Court Judge Marsha Neifield to order Bostian face criminal charges. The family took that step after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office – at the time, mired in former DA Seth Williams’ bribery scandal, announced it would not file any charges against Bostian.

An attorney for Bostian, Brian McMonagle, told Reuters that Shapiro’s latest appeal is unnecessary given the previous conclusions already made by the city’s District Attorney’s Office and Judge Gehret.

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