Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro continues to seek criminal charges against the Amtrak engineer operating the train that derailed in Philadelphia in 2015.
On Oct. 10, Shapiro’s office filed a notice of appeal in Philadelphia, seeking to overturn a Municipal Court judge’s decision to toss the charges against engineer Brandon Bostian.
“The Office of Attorney General has filed its notice of appeal of the Municipal Court decision in the Amtrak case,” office spokesman Joe Grace said in a statement Tuesday. “We are seeking a legal determination based on the proper standard for a preliminary hearing.”
Bostian’s attorney, Brian McMonagle, said the Attorney General’s Office has to re-file a complaint within the time period allowed by the statute of limitations in order to revive criminal charges.
“Recognizing that the statute has run and they are now time barred from proceeding further, they have desperately attempted to bypass the Pennsylvania Rules of Procedure. We will move to dismiss this illegal appeal,” he continued. “The [Philadelphia] District Attorney investigated this case for two years and determined that no crime was committed. A judge then reviewed the evidence and came to the same conclusion. This is wrong and we intend to put an end to it.”
Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gehret dismissed the charges against Bostian at a Sept. 12 hearing, ruling that there wasn’t enough evidence to show a crime had been committed.
“The Amtrak crash was a tragedy and this case has a unique procedural history. We are carefully reviewing the judge’s decision, notes of testimony and our prosecutorial responsibilities in this case going forward,” Shapiro had said in a statement after the hearing.
At that time, McMonagle said the only possible explanation for the accident was that Bostian was distracted by a distress call from another train engineer whose train had been attacked by assailants throwing rocks. Bostian, according to McMonagle, then sped up to over 100 miles per hour because he thought he had reached a high-speed zone.
“Today the judge came to the same conclusion that was reached by the District Attorney’s Office after investigation for two years; that this was an accident and not a crime,” McMonagle said.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office originally declined to pursue charges against Bostian.
The office announced in May, “We have no evidence that the engineer acted with criminal ‘intent’ or criminal ‘knowledge’ within the special meaning of those terms under Pennsylvania law for purposes of criminal charges. Nor do we believe there is sufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, criminal recklessness, which would be the only other basis for criminal liability.”
However, Thomas Kline and Robert Mongeluzzi, the Philadelphia plaintiffs attorneys who handled the civil lawsuits related to the derailment, along with prominent Philadelphia attorney Richard Sprague, filed two private criminal complaints on behalf of the victims’ families.
The next day, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield ordered the District Attorney’s Office to bring charges, but that office ultimately referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office, which filed charges against Bostian just before the statute of limitations ran out.
In a joint statement responding to the Oct. 10 appeal from Shapiro’s office, Kline and Mongeluzzi said, “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.”
P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.