NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Nearly a year after energy giant BP cut a deal to a resolve a criminal investigation of its role in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill, a jury is set to hear the Justice Department's case against a former company employee accused of trying to stymie the federal investigation.
Kurt Mix, who was a drilling engineer for BP, possibly faces a prison sentence if convicted of charges he deliberately deleted text messages and voicemails about the British oil company's response to its massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Jury selection for his trial on two counts of obstruction of justice is scheduled to begin Monday in New Orleans.
His former employer pleaded guilty in January to manslaughter charges for the deaths of 11 rig workers and to lying to Congress about the size of the spill. The company agreed to pay $4 billion in penalties, including nearly $1.3 billion in fines.
Mix, 52, of Katy, Texas, is one of four current or former BP employees charged with crimes related to the deadly disaster or its aftermath. His case is the first to be tried.
Mix worked on a team of experts trying to stop the flow of oil from BP's Macondo well after a blowout triggered an explosion that killed the workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Between April 2010 and July 2010, BP sent him 10 separate notices that he was obligated to preserve all records related to the catastrophe, which led to millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf.
The indictment says Mix deleted a string of text messages to and from a supervisor from his iPhone on Oct. 4, 2010, a day before a company vendor tried to collect documents from his laptop.
In June 2011, federal authorities issued a subpoena to BP for copies of messages that Mix sent and received around the time he was working on trying to cap the blown-out well.
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