Judge tosses charges against Amtrak driver in 2015 Philadelphia crash

Sept 12 (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday dismissed criminal charges against the driver of the Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia in 2015, killing eight passengers and injuring 200 others.

Brandon Bostian, 34, had been facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.

Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Gehret in Philadelphia threw out the case after a four-hour preliminary hearing, citing a lack of evidence that the crash was the result of criminal action rather than an accident.

The state attorney general's office, which had brought the case, could still seek to refile charges against Bostian.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement that his office was "carefully reviewing the judge's decision, notes of testimony and our prosecutorial responsibilities in this case going forward."

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Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia
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Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed late last night May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least five people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Amtrak assistant conductor Brandon Bostian stands by on Aug. 21, 2007 as Sandra Palmer of University City says goodbye to her boyfriend, Clyde Simpson, as he leaves for work in Chicago at the Amtrak station in St. Louis. Bostian was the engineer of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia. (Huy Richard Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed late last night May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least five people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 14: Members of the National Transportation Safety Board gather near the site of the Amtrak train derailment May 14, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Repair crews inspect damages at the site of a train derailment accident May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, from Washington to New York, that derailed yesterday May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least six people were killed and more than 200 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: In this handout image supplied by NTSB, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt works on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 derailment on May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by NTSBgov via Getty Images)
National Transportation Safety Board lead investigator Robert Sumwalt speaks during a press conference regarding the wreckage of the derailed Amtrak Northeast Regional Train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. The engineer of a US passenger train traveling at more than twice the approved limit slammed on the emergency brakes just before it derailed in Philadelphia, leaving at least seven people dead, investigators said. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, from Washington to New York, that derailed yesterday May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least six people were killed and more than 200 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rescuers work around derailed carriages of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Rescuers on May 13 combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers stand near a derailed carriage of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Rescuers on May 13 combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers work around derailed carriages of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Rescuers on May 13 combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers queue infront of ticketing counters at Union Station on May 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. Witnesses said the front of Amtrak Train 188, heading from Washington DC to New York, shook as it went into a turn and crashed at about 9:30 pm on Tuesday (0130 GMT Wednesday). AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Information screen showing cancelled train services at the Union Station on May 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least six people and injured more than 140. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Injured Amtrak passengers that were bused from to New York from Philadelphia wait at Penn Station May 13, 2015 in New York. Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers injured in an Amtrak train derailment who were bused from to New York from Philadelphia, walk through Penn Station May 13, 2015 in New York. Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Carolan Berkeley (L), who had an Amtrak ticket to go from New York to Washington D.C., waits for a bus from New York to Washington D.C. on May 13, 2015 in New York City. An Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia last night has forced train service to be suspended between New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., causing commuters to use NJ Transit, flights and bus services. The crash killed at least six people and injured dozens more. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Emergency responders search for passengers following an Amtrak train derailment in the Frankfort section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 12, 2015. An Amtrak passenger train with more than 200 passengers on board derailed in north Philadelphia on Tuesday night, killing at least five people and injuring more than 50 others, several of them critically, authorities said. Authorities said they had no idea what caused the train wreck, which left some demolished rail cars strewn upside down and on their sides in the city's Port Richmond neighborhood along the Delaware River. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
A truck arrives with a new section of train track near at the site of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 14, 2015. Federal safety investigators probing the deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia were waiting to interview the train's engineer, whose attorney said on Thursday he did not remember the crash that killed seven people and injured more than 200 others. REUTERS/Mike Segar
A truck arrives with a new section of train track near at the site of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 14, 2015. Federal safety investigators probing the deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia were waiting to interview the train's engineer, whose attorney said on Thursday he did not remember the crash that killed seven people and injured more than 200 others. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (C-L at microphones) gives a news conference to a large gathering of media near the site of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 13, 2015. Federal investigators were reviewing data from the black box recovered from the wreckage of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia to determine whether excessive speed played a role in the crash that killed at least six people and injured more than 200, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Mike Segar
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The case has had a somewhat unusual history. The Philadelphia district attorney's office declined to prosecute Bostian after concluding there was not enough evidence to sustain charges.

But a Philadelphia municipal court judge ordered prosecutors in May to bring charges after lawyers for several victims' families filed a criminal complaint, using an obscure Pennsylvania law that allows private citizens to request misdemeanor charges against someone.

Bostian's lawyer, Brian McMonagle, said his client should never have faced charges for what was ultimately a tragic accident.

"Today the judge came to the same conclusion that was reached by the prosecutors who spent two years investigating this case," he said. "This was not a crime; this was an accident."

The train was on its way from Washington to New York when it derailed at more than twice the speed limit while going around a curve in Philadelphia.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that Bostian, who was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, became distracted, possibly by radio chatter that a nearby train had been hit by a rock.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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