December hearing set in Amtrak case

A December hearing has been scheduled in the criminal case against Brandon W. Bostian, the Amtrak engineer involved in a fatal train derailment in Port Richmond.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is appealing a lower-court ruling that dismissed all criminal charges against Bostian, who is gay.

Bostian had been charged with multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and risking a catastrophe. If convicted of all charges, he faced a lifetime in prison.

But in September, after a four-hour preliminary hearing, Municipal Court Judge Thomas F. Gehret dismissed all charges against Bostian.

In October, Shapiro’s office filed a notice of appeal, seeking to have the charges against Bostian reinstated.

A hearing on Shapiro’s request is set for 10 a.m. Dec. 20 in Courtroom 805 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert St. Common Pleas Judge Tracy Brandeis Roman will preside.

Bostian, 34, continues to be on unpaid administrative leave from his engineer position at Amtrak. He’s expected to appear at the Dec. 20 hearing.

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 seriously injured.

The train originated in D.C. and was heading to New York City when the tragedy occurred.

A federal investigation 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 body and he hadn’t been using his cell phone.

In his civil suit against Amtrak, Bostian raises the possibility that “projectiles” were thrown directly at the train he was operating shortly before it derailed.

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, and the Keystone Press.