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Former VW exec could face up to 169 years

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Former VW exec could face up to 169 years

A former U.S.-based Volkswagen executive is set to stand trial for crimes related to the company’s massive diesel emission scandal on April 18. However, the defense indicated that it might seek a postponement.

Oliver Schmidt, former chief of Volkswagen’s environmental and engineering center in Michigan, faces 11 felony charges and if convicted, he could face up to 169 years in prison.

On March 10, in Detroit, Volkswagen is set to plead guilty to three felony counts under a plea agreement to resolve U.S. charges that it installed secret software in its vehicles to beat the emissions tests.

The U.S. Justice Department said the company realized in 2006 that it could not meet tougher U.S. emissions rules. However, the scandal did not become known to the public until the fall of 2015.

In January, Schmidt was one of the six former or current VW executives indicted, but he was the only one in the U.S. at the time of the indictments. Schmidt was arrested at Miami International Airport in Florida on January 7.

Schmidt will be the first VW employee or executive to go on trial in the scandal. James Liang, another former U.S. employee, was charged in late September. Liang pled guilty, at the time, to misleading regulators about diesel emissions and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

Schmidt’s attorney, George Donnini, asked U.S. District Judge Sean Cox if he could argue for another trial date. Donnini said that there was much discovery work that still needed to be done before trial, however, Cox sternly denied the request. If the defense wants a change in the trial date, they should file a motion with the court, Cox said.

Donnini would not comment after Wednesday’s brief hearing.

Cox also set a bond hearing, requested for March 16 by the defense. Schmidt is being held without bond.

Schmidt, who appeared at the hearing wearing a bright orange jumpsuit that read “SANILAC COUNTY” on the back, is being held at a jail in the county north of Detroit. Schmidt was shackled at the ankles and waist, which a court official said is the policy of the federal courthouse in Detroit.

Schmidt’s lawyers have argued that he is just a small player in a large scandal, also noting that he has cooperated with authorities, according to court documents.

On January 20, German prosecutors did a search of Schmidt’s house, which could indicate that he might also face charges in that country as well.

The automaker has agreed to spend up to $25 billion in the U.S. to address the claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers and to make buyback offers of its diesel-powered vehicles that were involved in the scandal.

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