Update, May 12, 8 p.m.: Brandon Bostian, 34, was charged with eight counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the derailment of Amtrak train 188 exactly two years ago. Just after 5 p.m., the court documents were filed and Bostian has also been charged with one count of causing or risking a catastrophe and eight counts of reckless endangerment. When the direct result of reckless or negligent behavior, involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by two-and-a-half to five years in prison per charge. The statute of limitations for reckless endangerment charges runs out on today.
“All Pennsylvanians should be grateful that there is an Attorney General willing to do what is right and just to hold Engineer Bostian accountable for his reckless conduct,” attorney Thomas R. Kline said on behalf of the Jacobs family and the families of the other victims. “The charges he faces are serious, warranted, and deserve to be heard by a jury.”
Attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi added, “The Attorney General’s bold, decisive action sends a loud and clear message that endangering the lives of rail passengers, crews and the public will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania, and should not be tolerated anywhere."
On Thursday, a municipal court judge ordered the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to reverse its earlier decision to not bring criminal charges against anyone involved in the derailment of Amtrak train 188, which resulted in the deaths of eight people and injured 200 more.
In a hearing with families of those involved in that crash, Judge Marsha Neifield ordered that Brandon Bostian, who drove the train at speeds of up to 106 mph – nearly twice the posted limit – in the lead up to the fatal crash on May 12, 2015, be charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
Earlier this week, the DA’s office announced that it wouldn’t press charges against Bostian – or anyone involved in the fatal crash – after finding “no evidence that the engineer acted with criminal ‘intent’ or criminal ‘knowledge,’” in the incident.
On Thursday afternoon, the spokesman for the DA’s office shared a statement, saying that the office would turn any prosecution in this case over to the state’s attorney general.
“President Judge Neifield has ordered the filing of two private criminal complaints as a result of the Amtrak train 188 derailment. In view of our earlier decision not to file charges, we have referred this prosecution to the Pennsylvania attorney general," it read. "We take this action to avoid the potential for any apparent conflict of interest, consistent with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Attorney’s Act."
The Attorney General's Office released a statement saying they had received the referral and were "carefully reviewing this important matter."
Statement on Amtrak 188 case: pic.twitter.com/CaYt3eNxA1
— AG Josh Shapiro (@PAAttorneyGen) May 11, 2017
Though the National Transportation Safety Board had previously ruled that the derailment was caused by Bostian, of New York, when he lost "situational awareness" due to being distracted by the radio, the DA’s office found on Tuesday that there was not enough “evidence sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the engineer ‘consciously’ disregarded the risk” of an imminent crash.
On Thursday afternoon, attorneys Richard A. Sprague, Thomas R. Kline and Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who represent many victims of this incident, held a news conference at their Center City office, where they applauded Judge Neifield’s decision.
“The victims of the 188 crash can now believe that justice is back,” Mongeluzzi said.
Kimberly M. Aquilina contributed to this report.