The only person charged with a crime so far in the BP oil spill has filed to dismiss half the charges against him.
The federal government charged BP engineer Kurt Mix with two counts of obstruction of justice earlier this year for deleting two sets of text messages.
But one set of messages, between Mix and a “contractor,” has been recovered and released in the court record. They are mostly about the two trying to meet for lunch or updating each other on their whereabouts. The feds say Mix was under orders to provide the texts for their investigation when he deleted them. Mix says they are so innocuous and unrelated to anything the feds were looking at that the act of deleting them could not possibly be a crime.
Legal observers found Mix to be a strange first (and so far, only) target for the Justice Department’s criminal probe: He had nothing to do with designing the faulty well or any of the mistakes that were made leading up to the April 2010 blowout that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, killed 11 men and set off the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Instead, Mix only came into the picture after the fact to assess damage to the well. He did try to estimate how much oil was coming out, and the feds have signaled that they may be looking at whether BP officials misled federal officials about how much oil was coming out of the well. The amount of oil coming out is critical because the total amount spilled is used to calculate pollution fines.
Mix’s separate string of text messages with a supervisor remain under seal because BP considers them attorney-client privileged. But Mix has argued that they actually contain evidence that proves his innocence.
Mix has asked for a hearing October 17th on yesterday’s motion to dismiss the charge related to the messages with the contractor.