SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/357609_eastman04.html

Jurors told not to consider whistle-blowing lawsLast updated April 3, 2008 11:18 a.m. PT

By ANDREA JAMES
P-I REPORTER

A King County Superior Court judge told jurors who are deliberating the fate of Gerald Eastman, a former Boeing quality assurance inspector, that whistle-blowing laws should not be considered.

Jurors continued into their third day of deliberations Thursday. They had asked the judge the day before, “May we consider whistle-blowing laws as they pertain to this case?”

Judge Monica Benton told them that they couldn’t consider other laws, nor do outside research.

Eastman faces 16 felony counts of computer trespass, after having downloaded Boeing documents and providing some of them to a Seattle Times reporter.

He said he did so to highlight corruption at Boeing and a shoddy inspection process for new planes. The King County prosecutor has charged that some of the resulting articles had nothing to do with airplane safety.

Defense attorney Ramona Brandes told the judge on Thursday morning, “I felt the court’s instruction went beyond what was necessary.”

Judge Benton also raised concerns to the attorneys about national news regarding “inflammatory discussion about airline safety.”

While the jury deliberates in Seattle, a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., has revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration looked the other way even after inspectors found cracks in Southwest Airlines planes. When FAA inspectors complained about the safety problems, they were threatened with dismissal, according to a report Thursday by the New York Times.

Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines have recently grounded scores of Boeing planes. U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., who has charged that the FAA has a “culture of coziness” with the carriers it regulates, leads the hearing.

Benton brought jurors into the courtroom to again remind them not to consider outside evidence or information when deliberating the case. The jurors are not allowed to read or watch any media reports regarding Eastman or Boeing.

Eastman said he felt somewhat vindicated by the national reports about poor FAA oversight. One of his complaints as a Boeing employee and after his arrest was that the FAA overlooked faulty inspections at Boeing.

While working as a quality assurance inspector in Tukwila, he wrote to Boeing management, the FAA and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell about what he viewed as fraud in Boeing’s airplane inspection process.

“With everything that’s going on, you’d think somebody would be interested that the same thing is going on at Boeing,” Eastman said. “It’s nice it’s coming out now — no matter what happens to me.”


This report includes information from Bloomberg News. P-I reporter Andrea James can be reached at 206-448-8124 or andreajames@seattlepi.com.© 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Seattle PI Reader’s Comments   What do you think?
#403207Posted by nullbull at 4/3/08 12:11 p.m.Please rule on this matter, oh jury of his peers, cornerstone of our system of justice. But only consider these few laws, and don’t do any research to become more informed about the decision, and ignore any legal protections the defendant may be granted by our laws.And then give us your ruling.That’s like asking a referee to fairly ref a game of basketball where one team has their arms tied behind their backs. What a crock. I smell an appeal, and for good reason.

#403209Posted by nullbull at 4/3/08 12:12 p.m.That said… perhaps the whistle blower protection laws require a SEPARATE legal proceeding, only after the initial verdict is given? Anyone have time to research this or know off the top of their heads?

#403246Posted by Pedro_the _Lion at 4/3/08 12:56 p.m.My understanding it that the whistleblowing laws are meant to protect employees from retaliation by their employers. The issue in this lawsuit is not retaliation by Boeing, but whether the employee committed a crime by stealing documents from his employer. I agree that his actions may appear justified, but that issue would not likely implicate the whistleblowing laws and instead would fall under the general rubric of public policy.
#403259Posted by Green Party at 4/3/08 1:12 p.m.If guilty, APPEAL!
#403290Posted by themodpoet at 4/3/08 1:46 p.m.Is it really any surprise that multinational corporations have more rights than people do? Is it any surprise that a federal judge is biased towards multinational corporations and against democracy? Not in Seattle. Remember, cops beat and arrest people all the time for exercising their constitutional rights and then, years later, the City of Seattle pays out the victims. Impeach this judge and let citizens make the rules, not corporations.
#403306Posted by Deano59 at 4/3/08 2:08 p.m.To have a whistle blower status, he has to report it to a government agency, usually the DOL, EEOC or OSHA. He didn’t contact any of these. He contacted the press to make his employer look bad period. They can’t consider whistle blower laws because he was trying to report as a whistle blower.Case closed and he gets the punishment he deserves. 

#403326Posted by jbottero at 4/3/08 2:27 p.m.He *broke into* computer systems and *stole* documents. He broke the law. This is different than just talking to reporters. 

#403327Posted by jbottero at 4/3/08 2:31 p.m.Posted by themodpoet at 4/3/08 1:46 p.m. Is it really any surprise that multinational corporations have more rights than people do?So you’re saying it’s OK for the guy who mows your lawn or comes in to clean your drains to rile through your personal papers? Really?

#403332Posted by D_P at 4/3/08 2:39 p.m.Let’s hope for jury nullification. If I was a juror in a case where the judge said that I couldn’t see all the information, I would not vote to convict. It would be unethical.

#403345Posted by jbottero at 4/3/08 3:06 p.m.Posted by D_P at 4/3/08 2:39 p.m.Let’s hope for jury nullification. If I was a juror in a case where the judge said that I couldn’t see all the information, I would not vote to convict. It would be unethical. It would be “unethical” to allow this guy to get away with breaking the law simply because you hate “Big Corporations”.He broke into systems he had nor right to be in. He stole documents he had no right to give away. He broke the law.

#403375Posted by beirdo at 4/3/08 3:54 p.m.to Deano59 – As evidenced by the paragraph below, which is from the article, this guy did try reporting to the gov., but they looked the other way. Obviously money means more to them than safety. (and in this election season I have to note that the 2 senators he reported this to were both democrats – just as corrupt as the republicans). I applaud Gerald’s heroic actions (from what I know of them). “While working as a quality assurance inspector in Tukwila, he wrote to Boeing management, the FAA and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell about what he viewed as fraud in Boeing’s airplane inspection process.”to jbottero – your lawn mower analogy hardly compares to this when the discussion is about whistleblower status. sheesh!

#403377Posted by equalibrium at 4/3/08 4:00 p.m.Is it really any surprise that multinational corporations have more rights than people do? I was unaware of my right to steal from people and business’.Also, if whistle blower laws applied, would the defense not try to go that route to begin with? I would hope so.If I was a juror in a case where the judge said that I couldn’t see all the information  What do you mean? One of the corner stones of our judicial system is eliminating outside influence. Evidence is either allowed or it is not. We can’t have gray areas where each jury picks and chooses their information. 

#403396Posted by WBR Supporer at 4/3/08 4:37 p.m.Nullbull, It appears the company has a number of issues they were trying to address with this attack on former Quality Assurance Inspector, Eastman.

I have been told that the company has had little patience for anyone who voices concerns about problems they see evidenced while doing their jobs. It appears they are trying to make a BIG example of Mr. Eastman. If they pull this off, they will certainly exact a new level of terror among their employees, particularly anyone who even remotely considered making whistleblower complaints.

Mr. Eastman tried first of all to resolve the problems he saw occurring in is place of employment by going through the proper and designated channels within his company. Achieving no success, he then went to the federal oversight agency, which was supposed to be policing Boeing’s safety and manufacturing processes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Surely, after last night’s breaking stories nearly everywhere, no one could doubt FAA has been having their problems and has been failing the government and the American public in that mission. Then Mr. Eastman, went to the DOT OIG, and also met with ambivalence to his complaints. Considering the emasculation of the Justice Department, and other oversight agencies recently, it is no surprise he was not successful in getting the problems addressed there in a timely manner either.

Mr. Eastman, it appears was trying to get his claims of fraud, filed as a whistleblower addressed, when his former employer filed charges against him. They filed these charges approximately two years after they had temporarily had him arrested, long enough to seize all of his computers, documentation and evidence, all of which was needed to support his claims of fraud. Also, it is notable that apparently Boeing also refused, upon filing charges against Mr. Eastman, to release the information they had seized and locked away that Mr. Eastman and his attorney needed in order to prepare a defense of his case in the trial being quickly funneled through the King County Courts as we speak.

Boeing has done everything it can to try to narrow the scope of the trial to keep Mr. Eastman’s whistleblower activities out of consideration. It is to their advantage to paint him as a common criminal. If they allowed him to have his legitimate whistleblower status, they would have to also allow him his rights as a whistleblower. Although whistleblower protection laws are far from sufficient, there are a number of protections, including Sarbanes-Oxley, and others mentioned in comments to other PI articles on this topic earlier this week.

Retaliation by Boeing? Yes, indeed, it appears that way to me. I imagine they don’t want this camel’s nose under the tent, especially with other investigations in progress in various three and four acronym agencies. I have been told that the company is quite frantic about what employees might say to federal investigators. Perhaps the example they want to set is “See what happens to you if you dare!” And with that lovely work environment, it becomes more understandable the poison we have read over the past week or two in posts from some, claiming to be Boeing workers. It sounds like a pretty terrible environment.

Thanks for your comments beirdo. This whole thing is outrageous and an embarrassment to everyone.

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