PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The engineer in a deadly Amtrak derailment is due in court for a preliminary hearing to determine if he’ll face trial on criminal charges that were filed only after a victim’s family intervened and a judge overruled city prosecutors.
Engineer Brandon Bostian’s lawyers want the case dismissed. They argued in court papers ahead of Tuesday’s hearing that the unusual circumstances leading to Bostian’s May arrest, as the statute of limitations loomed, had violated his due process rights.
Judge Marsha Neifield ordered the charges based on a private criminal complaint that lawyers for victim Rachel Jacobs’ family filed after the Philadelphia district attorney’s office declined to press charges.
Bostian’s lawyers argued the judge’s decision to approve the charges, including involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment, “unilaterally infringed” on the district attorney’s prosecutorial discretion.
Bostian’s lawyers includes Brian McMonagle, who recently left Bill Cosby’s defense team after reaching a deadlock in his June sex assault trial. Bostian’s Washington-to-New York train tumbled from the tracks in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015, after accelerating to 106 mph as it entered a 50 mph curve.
Jacobs, a chief executive of a Philadelphia-based technology startup, was among eight people who died in the crash. About 200 people were injured. The National Transportation Safety Board determined Bostian likely lost his bearings because he was distracted by an incident with a nearby train.
The district attorney’s office concluded it had “no evidence” he acted with criminal intent and insufficient evidence to prove he acted with intent or “conscious disregard” for the passengers’ safety.
State prosecutors are now handling the criminal case. Bostian told NTSB investigators he could only remember speeding up for an 80 mph straightaway and then hitting the brakes a few minutes later as he felt his body lurch and the locomotive starting to tip over.
The NTSB found no evidence that Bostian was impaired or using a cellphone. The agency also called Amtrak’s long failure to implement automatic speed control throughout the busy Northeast Corridor a contributing factor.
Bostian, on unpaid administrative leave from Amtrak, is free under a bond arrangement: As long as he shows up for court dates he won’t have to pay anything, but if he fails to appear he’d have to pay the full amount, $81,000.