Former BP Engineer Convicted for Obstruction of Justice

Posted by Michelle Howard
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Kurt Mix (Photo: Jonathan Bachman/AP)

Kurt Mix, a former engineer for BP plc, was convicted today of intentionally destroying evidence requested by federal criminal authorities investigating the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson of the FBI’s New Orleans Division made the announcement after the verdict was announced by U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr.

Mix, 52, of Katy, Texas, was convicted by a federal jury in the Eastern District of Louisiana of one count of obstruction of justice and was acquitted on a second count of obstruction of justice.   He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 26, 2014.

“Today a jury in New Orleans found that Kurt Mix purposefully obstructed the efforts of law enforcement during the investigation of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman.   “This prosecution shows the commitment of the Justice Department to hold accountable those who attempt to interfere with the administration of justice.  I want to thank the committed prosecutors and agents who have worked tirelessly over so many years on the Deepwater Horizon Task Force for their dedication and tenacity.”

According to court documents and evidence at trial, on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig experienced an uncontrolled blowout and related explosions while closing the Macondo well.  The catastrophe killed 11 men on board and resulted in the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Mix was a drilling and completions project engineer for BP.  Following the blowout, Mix 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.  Those efforts included Top Kill, the failed BP effort to pump heavy mud into the blown-out wellhead to try to stop the oil flow.  BP sent numerous notices to Mix requiring him to retain all information concerning Macondo, including his text messages.

On or about Oct. 4, 2010, after Mix learned that his electronic files were to be collected by a vendor working for BP’s lawyers, Mix deleted on his iPhone a text string containing more than 300 text messages with his BP supervisor.  The deleted messages included a text sent on the evening of May 26, 2010, at the end of the first day of Top Kill.  In the text, Mix stated, among other things, “Too much flowrate – over 15,000.”  Before Top Kill commenced, Mix and other engineers had concluded internally that Top Kill was unlikely to succeed if the flow rate was greater than 15,000 barrels of oil per day (BOPD).  At the time, BP’s public estimate of the flow rate was 5,000 BOPD – three times lower than the minimum flow rate indicated in Mix’s text.

By the time Mix deleted these texts, he had received numerous legal hold notices requiring him to preserve such data and had been put on notice of the Department of Justice’s criminal investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The Deepwater Horizon Task Force, based in New Orleans, is supervised by Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman and led by William Pericak, a deputy chief in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section who serves as the director of the task force.  The task force includes prosecutors from the Criminal Division and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and other U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and investigating agents from the FBI, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal law enforcement agencies.  The task force’s investigation of this and other matters concerning the Deepwater Horizon disaster is ongoing.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jennifer L. Saulino and Trial Attorney Leo R. Tsao of the Fraud Section.

Maritime Reporter September 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

Exmar Optimistic About Gas Carrier Market into 2015

Belgian gas shipping group Exmar said on Thursday that the market for its very large and midsize gas carriers was at historically high levels in the third quarter

Rep. Cummings Receives Maritime Service Award

On Wednesday, October 29, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) delivered keynote remarks at APL Maritime’s Senior Management Conference, and received an award

LA Governor Jindal Appoints Bollinger's Barker

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal appointed James "Ray" Barker to the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council. Barker, of Raceland, is the Director of Human Resources at Bollinger Shipyards, Inc.

News

Easing US Oil Export Ban Unlikey to Raise Gasoline Prices

A government study on Thursday essentially supported the notion that easing the decades-old restriction on exporting U.S. crude was more likely to lower than raise

Keel Laid, Fabrication Started on 2 Navy Warships

This week, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works celebrated two milestone events for the Arleigh Burke-class program. On October 30, Bath Iron Works held a keel laying

Bulker Arrives to US on Her Maiden Voyage

The Port of Vancouver USA welcomed the Kypros Unity, commanded by Capt. Wilfredo F. Itable of Cyprus, on her maiden voyage Oct. 28. Capt. Itable and his 20-member

People in the News

Rep. Cummings Receives Maritime Service Award

On Wednesday, October 29, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) delivered keynote remarks at APL Maritime’s Senior Management Conference, and received an award

LA Governor Jindal Appoints Bollinger's Barker

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal appointed James "Ray" Barker to the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council. Barker, of Raceland, is the Director of Human Resources at Bollinger Shipyards, Inc.

Vale CEO: Coal Deal Soon

Brazilian mining company Vale SA is close to making a "strategic" announcement concerning its coal unit, the company's chief executive Murilio Ferreira said on

Offshore Energy

Partners Deliver Modular Floating Tidal Energy Platform

A group of offshore companies, including Bluewater, Damen and Van Oord among others, has partnered for a floating tidal energy platform a project to generate clean electricity,

Statoil Invests $1.5b in US Offshore Project

Statoil together with co-owners in the Stampede development in the Gulf of Mexicohas sanctioned the Stampede project in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Statoil said it will invest $1.

Experimental Floating Wind Farm Nears Installation

Launched in March 2012, the Fukushima experimental offshore floating wind farm project sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is nearing the installation

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Pipelines Port Authority Salvage Ship Electronics Ship Repair Ship Simulators Sonar
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1934 sec (5 req/sec)