Gulf spill cases against former BP employees advance

A federal judge has barred prosecutors at the trial of a former BP engineer charged with obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill from telling jurors he was suspended from his job and that he retained a personal attorney.

Also Thursday, a separate judge granted the request of a former BP executive charged with lying to Congress in the spill case to skip an upcoming hearing in his case because he will be in Malaysia at a business meeting with the energy company he now works for.

The developments come as the defendants’ cases advance in federal court in New Orleans. Kurt Mix of Katy and David Rainey of Houston have pleaded not guilty.

Among other things, prosecutors have alleged that Mix’s deletion of text messages and voicemails about the amount of oil that was flowing from BP’s Macondo well after it blew out off the coast of Louisiana was part of a company cover-up.

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Mix’s lawyer has accused prosecutors of withholding evidence from the defense that could help prove her client’s innocence. U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. ordered prosecutors Thursday to provide a more detailed response to the allegation before he rules.

The obstruction of Congress accusation against Rainey stems from statements he made about the amount of oil that was flowing from BP’s blown-out well.

 

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt said Rainey will not be required to appear at his May 22 motions hearing. Rainey is now president of exploration for BHP Billiton.

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Rainey’s trial is currently scheduled for Sept. 23, but he asked the judge Thursday for a delay until Oct. 14 because of scheduling issues. His lawyers said in the request that all parties would like a verdict by Thanksgiving. There was no immediate ruling on that request.

Besides Mix and Rainey, two BP well-site leaders are charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 rig workers who were killed when the Transocean-owned Deepwater Horizon exploded after BP’s undersea well blew out. Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza have pleaded not guilty.

Read ongoing FuelFix coverage of the legal trials surrounding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill: