Ex-BP engineer warns of ‘substantial risk’ of wrongful conviction in Gulf spill case

With his trial a month away, a former BP engineer is renewing claims that obstruction of justice charges should never have been brought against him over his actions after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and if prosecutors move forward they should be made to play by the rules.

Kurt Mix’ attorney, Joan McPhee, wrote in a strongly worded court filing this week that there will be a “substantial risk” of a wrongful conviction if the court doesn’t order prosecutors to turn over materials she says could clear her client but have been withheld from the defense.

McPhee also is seeking sanctions against prosecutors. A hearing on the request is set for Tuesday in federal court in New Orleans. Mix, of Katy, has pleaded not guilty. He  is set for trial June 10.

“Kurt Mix is charged with serious crimes,” McPhee wrote. “His liberty is at stake. His right to vote is at stake. His reputation is at stake. His future is at stake. On this record, even without benefit of the further disclosures of exculpatory material requested herein, it is evident that Kurt Mix has been denied the due and fair process to which he is constitutionally entitled.”

Read more: Telling truth may land BP employee in jail

The government, in a recent response, accused the defense of gamesmanship:

“The defendant jumped right to a motion seeking serious sanctions – including not only the dismissal of the indictment, but also an independent investigation of the government – for conduct which, at best, is a claim that the government somehow acted in bad faith by complying with the court’s clear and unambiguous (discovery) order.”

Federal prosecutors said there are over 37 million documents in the various Justice Department criminal and civil databases and that it will take four to five months to have them copied and produced. They suggested they would be willing to give the defense everything they have if the court orders them to.

Such a ruling, however, could in effect force the delay of the trial, based on the amount of time prosecutors say they would need to disclose all their files.

“Because there is no basis to find misconduct, let alone intentional or bad faith misconduct, the defendant’s sanctions motion should be denied,” prosecutors said.

Mix is accused of deleting 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. The defense doesn’t dispute that the items were deleted, but they have argued Mix lacked the corrupt intent to obstruct the government’s investigation because federal officials already had the relevant information Mix purportedly destroyed.