An engineer who was the first person to be arrested on charges related to BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill for deleting a series of text messages has asked the court to allow him to share undisclosed records that, he claims, will exonerate him of any wrongdoing.
Kurt Mix, 50, worked as a drilling and completions engineer for BP when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank about 50 miles south of the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers and setting off the largest oil spill in U.S. history. He is accused of deleting hundreds of text messages exchanged between he and a supervisor that the U.S. Justice Department claims contained “sensitive internal BP information” about the quantity of oil that was blasting through BP’s blown-out Macondo well.
Court papers filed by Mr. Mix on Monday argue that the text messages he deleted did not contain information significant to the ongoing efforts of federal investigators to determine how the disastrous oil spill was allowed to happen. According to the Times-Picayune, the text messages were exchanged between May 13, 2010 and August 20, 2011 and “cover such mundane topics as trips to California, borrowing each other’s vehicles, setting up lunches and the results of a pet’s surgery.”
Mr. Mix now “claims to have records the feds don’t know about that will get him off he hook,” the Times-Picayune reports. “The only problem is, Mix says the records [are] protected by somebody else’s attorney-client privilege, and has asked U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo for the right to disclose the … evidence.”
David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan and the former chief of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, told the Times-Picayune that such evidence, if it does indeed exist, could have embarrassing implications for U.S. prosecutors.
Many legal analysts following the case are already perplexed as to why federal prosecutors are choosing to target a low-level BP engineer whose only involvement was to determine how much oil was being released from the runaway well instead of prosecuting those who had a direct role in causing the disaster.
Federal prosecutors have charged Mr. Mix on charges of obstruction of justice for deleting the supposedly sensitive text messages. Nobody has been charged for causing or contributing to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers and flooded the Gulf with more than 200 million gallons of oil.
Mix has asked Judged Milazzo to allow him to disclose the secret information under a protective order so that the judge and prosecutors can review it while shielding it from public view. The source and owner of the documents have not been publicly revealed.