Judge orders prosecutors to charge Amtrak engineer in crash

The derailment also created fundamental policy changes for Amtrak.

In this aerial photo, emergency personnel work at the scene of a passenger train wreck in Philadelphia on Wednesday, May 13, 2015.

The state's attorney general has a wide range of options in responding to a judge's order to arrest a speeding Amtrak engineer involved in the deadly 2015 crash, a law professor said Friday, May 12, 2017.

The misdemeanor charges each carry a maximum five-year sentence.

The judge ruled that charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment can be brought against Bostian, both as misdemeanors. Bostian's lawyer has rarely commented and did not return messages seeking comment this week.

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office had completed its investigation into the derailment at the Frankford Junction on May 12, 2015, finding that while evidence indicated that the derailment was caused by Bostian operating the train "far in excess of the speed limit", the evidence did not rise to the level of pressing charges against him because there was no evidence he acted with criminal "intent" or criminal "knowledge". The unusual judge's order came after the family of a woman killed in the crash sought a private criminal complaint when city prosecutors declined to press charges as Friday's two-year deadline approached.

Private criminal complaints are occasionally used in low-level crimes not witnessed by police or, sometimes, when charges are not filed for political reasons, experts said.

Judge Marsha Neifield ordered prosecutors to charge Brandon Bostian with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment after meeting with lawyers for the families of some of the deceased.

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Kline and attorney Robert Mongeluzzi represent 32 victims in ongoing litigation against Amtrak.

Federal investigators believe Bostian lost "situational awareness" but wasn't impaired or using a cellphone.

The train had left Philadelphia minutes before, heading toward NY.

Bostian claimed something had struck his train, possibly a thrown rock, and he was unable to recall the moments just before the derailment.

Other lawyers have called last year's NTSB report on the crash a "whitewash" and a "quantum leap". According to the affidavit from Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office, the train was moving 106 miles per hour, when the speed limit was 50 miles per hour at the curve.

Eight passengers were killed: Derrick Griffith, 42, a dean at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York; Rachel Jacobs, 39, the CEO of Philadelphia-based company ApprenNet and a mother of a toddler; Abid Gilani, 55, who worked for Wells Fargo; Justin Zemser, 20, a Naval Academy midshipman; Jim Gaines, 48, a father and Associated Press video software architect; Bob Gildersleeve, 45, a father and vice president of Ecolab; Laura Finamore, 47, a senior account director at Cushman & Wakefield; and Giuseppe Piras, 41, a wine and oil executive from Sardinia, Italy. "Three days ago, the victims of Amtrak Train 188 felt that justice was derailed, and today they feel that justice is back on track".

This portion of track was not equipped with positive train control or even a less technologically-advanced piece of equipment that could have prevented the train from traveling at such a speed. The NTSB has said had that equipment been installed the accident would not have happened.

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