U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles agreed to ease travel restrictions on Kurt Mix, who was charged with destroying evidence sought in the investigation of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Bloomberg reported Friday.
Mix had asked the judge to ease the travel restrictions placed on him as a condition of bail. Mix is now allowed to travel within Texas and to Louisiana, Massachusetts and New York, but must get a judge's permission to travel outside these states.
The former BP engineer has been charged with two felony counts of obstruction of justice. The indictment alleges that Mix sought to block the United States government's grand jury investigation by deleting from his iPhone two text messages strings containing information about the Macondo well's flow rate and BP's efforts to halt the flow of oil from the well.
The government cited one particular message in its indictment. In that message, dated May 26, 2010, Mix and his supervisor addressed flow rate information during the Top Kill operation. BP announced the failure of Top Kill immediately after the operation was halted on May 29, 2010, but the May 26 message revealed that Mix understood the operation would not be successful due to the high flow rate of oil from the well.
By deleting this message in early October 2010, the government alleges that Mix was attempting to hide the fact that, during the Top Kill effort, he believed and expressed to his supervisor that the effort would not work, contrary to BP's public statements at the time.
Joan McPhee, head of Mix's legal team for the trial, argued in a May 14 filing that Mix's counsel had evidence of an exculpatory nature that conclusively demonstrate Mix's innocence in the charges against him.
"That evidence establishes affirmatively that Mix had no intent to hide either flow rate or Top Kill information and that he in fact hid neither," argued McPhee in the motion, which sought to bring a motion for a protective order to allow for immediate disclosure and use at trial of exculpatory information not currently in the government's possession.
Because the third-party privilege holder has not waived its claim of privilege, the government was unaware of this information when it indicted Mix. Mix's counsel said that a protective order that allows Mix to use the privileged information but makes clear that the privilege-holder has not waived the privilege is needed to uphold Mix's rights without causing unnecessary harm to the privilege holder.
"Indeed, the evidence establishes that, at the very same time that the government alleges Mix was 'corruptly' deleting text messages, he was being entirely forthcoming in answering questions and providing detailed information about the incident, including flow rate and Top Kill," Mix's counsel noted in the filing.
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