The first court appearance for an Amtrak engineer charged in Philadelphia’s 2015 train derailment was postponed until September.
Brandon Bostian, 34, of Somerville, Mass., was scheduled to appear Wednesday at Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center on more than 200 charges related to the May 12, 2015, derailment, but one of his lawyers, Brian McMonagle, is occupied by another case, the sexual-assault prosecution of Bill Cosby in Montgomery County. Another lawyer representing Bostian, Fred Perri, and Christopher Phillips, a deputy Pennsylvania attorney general, agreed to postpone the hearing until Sept. 12.
The state Attorney General’s Office charged Bostian in May with eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of causing or risking a catastrophe, and he has since been charged with 238 counts of reckless endangerment. Bostian, who was released on $81,000 bond after his arrest May 18, did not appear in court.
The criminal case against Bostian has taken a winding and unusual course. Just days before the statute of limitations on a reckless-endangerment charge would have expired on May 12, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced that it would not pursue charges against the engineer, citing a lack of evidence of criminal conduct.
Civil attorneys representing victims of the derailment then pursued another route to charges. A criminal complaint was brought Wednesday by the father and husband of Rachel Jacobs, a young mother who died in the derailment. The District Attorney’s Office rejected that complaint, and Jacobs’ family went to court to obtain a judge’s order requiring the office to charge Bostian. After an order was issued, the District Attorney’s Office recused itself because it had already declined to press charges and the state Attorney General’s Office stepped in.
“We’re still reviewing the allegations,” Perri said after leaving the courtroom Wednesday. “We’re all well-aware of the fact the Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office declined prosecution several times.”
Phillips declined to comment after the court session concluded.
Bostian drove a seven-car train off the tracks at Frankford Curve, killing eight people and injuring more than 150. He accelerated Amtrak Train 188 to 106 mph, more than twice the speed posted, as it approached Frankford Curve, in the Port Richmond section of the city, according to findings by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The federal investigation concluded that he had no alcohol or drugs in his system, and was not using his cellphone at the time of the derailment. Bostian told the NTSB he did not remember what had happened. The federal agency’s review concluded that he lost “situational awareness,” probably because of radio chatter about a rock hitting a SEPTA train near Frankford Curve, shortly before the derailment.