A former Boeing official who played a key role in the development of the 737 MAX has refused to provide documents sought by federal prosecutors investigating two fatal crashes of the jetliner, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Mark Forkner, Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the MAX project, invoked the privilege in response to a grand jury subpoena issued by U.S. Justice Department prosecutors looking into the design and certification of the plane, the person said.
Invoking the Fifth to avoid testifying, while a legal right, is sometimes interpreted as an admission of guilt. Its use to resist a subpoena for documents is less common and may only imply a dance between prosecutors and defense attorneys, legal experts say.
Forkner, now a first officer for Southwest Airlines, referred questions to his attorney when reached by phone. His attorney, David Gerger, of Houston, did not respond to inquiries.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment. Boeing also declined to comment.
Prosecutors in the Justice Department’s Washington, D.C., fraud section are conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the crashes that occurred Oct. 29 off Indonesia, and March 10 in Ethiopia, killing 346 people and leading to worldwide grounding of the plane. (end of excerpt)
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