Overruling DA’s Office, Judge Calls for Amtrak Driver’s Arrest

PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Just two days after city prosecutors announced they would not press charges against the Amtrak driver whose train derailed in 2015, a Philadelphia judge issued an order for the conductor’s arrest on involuntary-manslaughter and reckless-endangerment counts.

Judge Marsha Neifield issued the order against Brandon Bostian on Thursday, relying on a Pennsylvania law that lets courts accept private criminal complaints if district attorneys decline to prosecute.

In this case the family of crash victim Rachel Jacobs made the request though their attorney, Richard A. Sprague.

A 39-year-old tech CEO and mother of one, Jacobs had been one of eight passengers killed when an Amtrak bound for New York City crashed on May 12, 2015.

At the time the train derailed in Philadelphia, according to the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board, it was going 106 mph on a curve with a posted speed limit of 50 mph.

Train engineer Bostian told federal investigators that he had been listening to the radio and became distracted by a report about a train engineer who was sprayed with glass from a windshield that had been struck by an object.

More than 180 passengers suffered injuries in the Northeast Corridor crash.

Sprague, the attorney for the Jacobs family, balked at Bostian’s excuse Thursday at a press conference.

“Can you imagine someone driving down Market Street at 100 miles per hour … and the DA saying we don’t have a basis for prosecuting anybody,” Sprague asked.

Thomas Kline and Robert Mongeluzzi, attorneys for 32 other crash victims, joined Sprague in his request for criminal charges.

Neither the attorneys nor the DA’s office returned calls requesting comment.

When the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced on May 9 that they would not be pressing charges against Bostian, prosecutors said they did not feel they not prove criminal intent nor knowledge — based on interviews with multiple detectives, railroad-safety experts and Amtrak officials.

“The evidence indicates that the derailment was caused by the engineer operating the train far in excess of the speed limit,” the DA’s office had said in an unsigned statement. “However, we cannot conclude that the evidence rises to the high level necessary to charge the engineer … with a criminal offense.”

A state law allows private criminal complaints to be submitted to the judiciary, essentially circumventing the DA’s conclusion.

Philadelphia prosecutors released a statement Thursday indicating that they will refer Bostian’s prosecution to the state’s attorney general to avoid a conflict of interest.

A federal judge signed off on Amtrak’s $295 million settlement with the crash victims last year.

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