For the second time, a Philadelphia judge has dismissed all criminal charges against Brandon W. Bostian, the openly-gay train engineer involved in a deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.
During a July 23 court proceeding, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Barbara A. McDermott cleared Bostian, 36, of one count of risking a catastrophe, eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and 246 counts of reckless endangerment.
In May 2015, Bostian was speeding on a dangerous curve in Port Richmond, causing a seven-car Amtrak train to jump the tracks and derail. Eight passengers were killed and more than 100 were seriously injured.
The train originated in D.C. and was heading to New York City when the tragedy occurred.
In September 2017, Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gehret had dismissed all counts against Bostian, citing a lack of evidence that he committed criminal acts. But the charges were reinstated five months later by Common Pleas Judge Kathryn Lewis.
Thomas Kline and Robert Mongeluzzi represent victims of the crash. They issued a joint statement on the new ruling that reads, “We disagree with the ruling today. This case is being rightfully pursued by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, including the felony charge of risking a catastrophe. Our clients are hopeful that the ruling will be reversed on appeal, and that ultimately there will be public accountability of Mr. Bostian, whose recklessness caused the death of eight individuals and mayhem to the lives of hundreds of others.”
The state Attorney General’s Office will file an appeal in state Superior Court.
“Our office intends to appeal,” said Jacklin Rhoads, a spokesperson for the office.
A Sept. 23 jury trial date for Bostian, with McDermott presiding, has been canceled in light of the dismissal of all charges.
“Brandon is a good man and was an outstanding engineer,” said Brian McMonagle, Bostian’s defense attorney. “He, like others that night, was forced to navigate through a crime scene where criminals were throwing rocks at the windshield of passenger trains which caused this tragic accident to occur. The Philadelphia DA’s Office, the Department of Justice and the National Transportation Board all determined that Brandon did not engage in criminal conduct. This prosecution is wrong and on July 23, Judge McDermott righted that wrong.”
A federal investigation into the accident concluded that Bostian apparently lost his bearings due to radio chatter involving a nearby SEPTA train. Authorities said he had no alcohol or drugs in his system and hadn’t been using his cell phone.
Bostian remains free on unsecured bond. McDermott’s decision to dismiss all charges followed defense arguments that any mistakes made by Bostian do not amount to crimes, according to court records.
Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash, agreeing to pay $265 million to settle civil claims filed by victims and their families.
The state Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case because the Philadelphia District Attorney declined to pursue the matter.
Bostian could not be reached for comment.