Deepwater Horizon: Government drops charges against ex-BP engineer

In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday dropped all obstruction of justice charges against former BP engineer Kurt Mix related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Kurt Mix was a drilling and completions project engineer for BP. Following the April 2010 blowout, he worked on internal BP efforts to estimate the amount of oil leaking from the well and was involved in various efforts to stop the leak.

Ropes & Gray, a law firm representing Mix said he had pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of deleting a single text message conversation with a close personal friend who was also a co-worker. The texts were almost entirely personal in nature and did not include anything important about the oil spill, the law firm added.

Friday’s announcement was the culmination of a lengthy investigation and prosecution initiated by the Justice Department in the summer of 2011 when the Department of Justice mounted a four-year prosecution against Mix.

He was arrested in April 2012 on charges of intentionally destroying evidence requested by federal criminal authorities investigating the Deepwater Horizon disaster and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice. A jury cleared Mix of one obstruction of justice charge in December 2013, and the Department of Justice dropped the second charge on Friday.

Joan McPhee of Ropes & Gray LLP, attorney for Kurt Mix, stated, “The resolution of this case is a vindication of Kurt Mix and an acknowledgment by the Department of Justice that Kurt never acted to obstruct justice. It is an affirmation of Kurt’s innocence of the charges that the Department of Justice has been pursuing for over four years. This is a case that never should have been brought, against a man whose tireless efforts in the Deepwater Horizon spill should have been acknowledged and appreciated, not prosecuted.”

Mix said he was thankful that the Department of Justice had finally acknowledged that he did not engage in any act to obstruct justice.

“My family and I have paid an enormous price as a result of the Justice Department’s misguided prosecution. This is not a fight I ever wanted, but I was never going to give in to the false accusation that I obstructed justice,” Mix added.

Attorney Joan McPhee added, “We hope the Justice Department will conduct a thorough review of how a meritless case like this gets filed in the first place and then pursued so aggressively for so long.”