Safety and OSHA News

Ex-BP engineer pleads guilty to lesser charges in Deepwater Horizon disaster

A former BP engineer has pleaded guilty to “intentionally causing damage without authorization to a protected computer,” in connection with the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 employees and sent over 3 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Kurt Mix admitted he should have sought permission before deleting text messages between himself and a friend who was a contractor working with him to stop the underwater oil spill that followed the explosion of the oil rig in April 2010.

He was sentenced to six months of probation, 60 hours of community service and a $25 fee.

Mix’s lawyer said the deleted texts were mostly personal.

When he was first charged with obstructing the government’s investigation of BP – charges that were dropped in exchange for the lesser plea – the U.S. Justice Department claimed a text string Mix deleted contained information about the real amount of oil being spilled into the Gulf by the rig. The amount of oil spilled has been a key contention between BP and the government.

Mix had faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of two counts of obstructing an investigation.

Federal prosecutors haven’t commented on Mix’s case in the wake of the plea agreement. Mix published an article in The Wall Street Journal saying he was a scapegoat in the government’s investigation. He was also quoted outside a federal courthouse of saying he had done nothing wrong.

Others charged

Mix is one of five individuals who were criminally charged in connection with the BP spill. Here’s the status of the other four cases:

  • In June, former BP vice president David Rainey was acquitted on charges that he made false statements during testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment.
  • Anthony Badalamenti, a Halliburton manager who deleted computer records related to the spill, pleaded guilty in 2013 to a single count of destroying evidence and was sentenced to probation.
  • Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza, who were on board the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded, are scheduled to go on trial in February 2016 on 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter and violations of the Clean Water Act. Manslaughter charges were dropped against the pair.

In 2012, BP and the federal government settled criminal cases against the company. The company pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of a vessel’s officers among other charges. Penalties totaled $4.5 billion.

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