How the Crime Victims’ Rights Act Impacts Victims and Can Affect the Justice Department’s Resolution of Claims to Defraud the Federal Government
In this article, the authors contend that federal prosecutors, when prosecuting conspiracies to defraud the government, would do well to not only consider potential victims outside the four corners of the conspiracy to defraud charged in the indictment, but should solicit their input before attempting to enter a plea agreement or negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement. The authors also offer steps that practitioners should take when considering victims’ rights issues under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
In United States v. Boeing Company, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas considered whether individuals who lost family members in 737 Max plane crashes were “crime victims” under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA). The victims lost their family members in two fatal plane crashes as a result of Boeing’s admitted conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the new 737 Max.
Boeing is the latest in a series of cases that expand the definition of “crime victim” under the federal crime victim legislation where the crime charged is “scheme” based. It demonstrates that victims must plainly establish that the harm they suffered was directly linked to the scheme charged. It also shows the importance of respecting victims’ rights and cautions prosecutors to afford all potential victims their rights under the CVRA.
This article outlines the definition of a “crime victim” under the different federal laws protecting crime victims’ rights. It next summarizes the Boeing case, including the relevant facts, parties’ arguments, and the court’s holding. Finally, the article concludes by analyzing how Boeing fits in with prior crime victims’ rights jurisprudence and offers recommendations for practitioners representing both victims and the government so that they may better anticipate and respond to issues under the CVRA.
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“How the Crime Victims’ Rights Act Impacts Victims and Can Affect the Justice Department’s Resolution of Claims to Defraud the Federal Government,” by Nicholas C. Harbist and Yaffa D. Stone was published in the August 2023 edition of Pratt’s Government Contracting Law Report (Vol. 9, No. 8), an A.S. Pratt Publication, LexisNexis. Reprinted with permission.