Judge won’t dismiss former BP engineer’s obstruction charge

A federal judge Thursday denied a former BP engineer’s motion to dismiss one of the two obstruction of justice charges he faces for allegedly deleting text messages related to the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 spill.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval made his decision following a hearing in New Orleans, Justice Department spokeswoman Rebekah Carmichael said.

The hearing also was set to address other motions filed by attorneys for Kurt Mix. Those motions related to government evidence, what should be admissible and what should be turned over to the defense.

Among the things the government has been trying to determine during its two-year criminal investigation is whether BP officials intentionally misled investigators about the amount of oil pouring  into the Gulf in the weeks after BP’s Macondo  well  blew out. Besides the spill, the blowout caused an explosion that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and killed 11 workers.

Mix, a Katy resident, was  a drilling and completions project engineer for BP at the time of the disaster off the Louisiana coast.

The government alleges that in October 2010, Mix deleted on his iPhone a text string containing more than 200 text messages with a BP supervisor.  The deleted texts included sensitive internal BP information collected in real-time during the top kill operation — a failed  effort weeks after the April 20 blowout to stop the gushing oil by pumping in  heavy drilling mud.

In August 2011, the government alleges, Mix  deleted a  string containing more than 100 text messages with a BP contractor with whom Mix had worked on various issues concerning how much oil was flowing from the Macondo well after the blowout.

Mix’s lawyers were seeking to dismiss the obstruction count that relates to the 2011 incident. They argued that the content of those text messages “is so patently innocuous that it is beyond the realm of possibility that Mix could have impeded a grand jury proceeding by deleting them.”

Carmichael said Thursday that the government’s investigation of the Gulf disaster is still active. To date, no one besides Mix has been charged in the case.