NEW ORLEANS - When federal prosecutors investigated BP for lying about how much oil was coming out of its ruptured Gulf well in April 2010, the first person they charged with obstruction was BP engineer Kurt Mix.
Now that BP has pleaded guilty to misrepresenting how much oil was spilling from its Gulf well in 2010, Mix wants to know how the feds can claim he obstructed justice when it was emails he wrote and turned over to investigators that (Mix contends) proved their case against BP.
Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, filed their own pleading in federal court today that says Mix never shared records with them, the Justice Department's Deepwater Horizon task force or the federal grand jury.
Mix was charged in May with deleting text messages that prosecutors requested in the case. He has been arguing for months that sealed or privileged documents in the hands of the court actually proved his innocence. He contends the only messages he deleted were inconsequential and that he in fact preserved and helped turn over to prosecutors emails and text messages that were relevant to the government’s investigation.
Two weeks ago, the government filed documents in a plea agreement with BP stating that the company knowingly misled Congress and investigators about the amount of oil flowing out of the well after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Mix's latest filing includes emails written by Mix on April 21 and 22, 2010 -- the two days immediately after the disaster -- laying out how much oil could be spilling under different scenarios. They said the minimum amount of oil coming out would have been 64,000 barrels of oil per day, more than 12 times the 5,000 barrels per day flowrate that BP was sharing with the government.
Mix’s filing claims the government jumped the gun in charging him -- and that it was only because Mix preserved the key text messages and produced the emails that the government had the “smoking gun” evidence it needed to get a guilty plea from BP in the matter.
"The story the Government initially jumped to tell has now been exposed as fallacious by the very investigative work the Government was obliged but failed to complete before precipitously deciding to charge Kurt Mix," the filing states.
Prosecutors also charged a BP executive, David Rainey, with obstruction and false statements for concocting his own method for measuring the flow of oil and doctoring the numbers so that it always came out to about 5,000 barrels per day. The government claims that allowed BP to keep the official flowrate down for almost a full month, before independent scientists forced the government to accept far higher rates, which turned out to be in line with what Mix originally estimated.
Rainey pleaded not guilty yesterday.