Judge Orders Prosecutors to Charge Driver in Amtrak Derailment

The Philly DA's Office said earlier this week that it would not charge Brandon Bostian, who was speeding when the train crashed in 2015.

Left: Brandon Bostian (Courtesy of Robert Mongeluzzi); Right: The aftermath of the Amtrak Train 188 derailment (AP/Mel Evans)

A Philadelphia judge has ordered prosecutors to file charges against the driver in the 2015 Amtrak derailment – just days after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said it would not do so.

Municipal Court Judge Marsha Neifield has asked the DA’s Office to charge Brandon Bostian with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. A two-year investigation by the DA’s office found that Bostian’s speeding caused the train to derail, killing eight people and injuring more than 200 others.

On Tuesday, the DA’s office said that despite its findings, “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.”

In regard to potential reckless endangerment charges, the office said it did not find “evidence sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the engineer ‘consciously’ disregarded the risk,” as is required by Pennsylvania law.

NewsWorks reports that the family of 39-year-old Rachel Jacobs, a crash victim, filed a private citizen complaint on Wednesday. The DA’s office reportedly declined that complaint, which was then forwarded Neifield. Through a basis in state law that allows the judiciary to intervene in a criminal investigation, Neifield then ordered prosecutors to file charges.

The DA’s office, however, has referred the prosecution to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, DA spokesman Cameron Kline said in a statement yesterday. The state AG’s office will either press charges or appeal the judge’s order via Superior Court.

Bostian, who has maintained an extremely low profile since the crash and reportedly lives in New York, has not yet been charged. If state prosecutors choose to press charges, a warrant would be issued for his arrest.

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the crash. Mayor Jim Kenney addressed the catastrophe in a statement issued this morning:

“Two years later, the wounds of this tragedy are still very fresh. We mourn with the families of the victims and those who are still healing from their injuries. We remain eternally grateful to all the first responders, healthcare workers and Northeast Philadelphia residents who opened their community to the passengers. This evening, in honor of this somber anniversary, I encourage all Philadelphians to take a moment of reflection.”

Amtrak has largely assumed responsibility for the crash. Last year, a federal judge ordered the transportation organization to pay $265 million to settle claims arising from the derailment.

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