The Justice Department asked Wednesday that three federal prosecutors handling the case against a former BP engineer charged with obstructing the government’s investigation of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill be withdrawn from the case.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr described the abrupt move, which comes less than four months before Kurt Mix’s trial, as a “staffing adjustment.” The agency does not believe the departure of assistant U.S. attorneys Derek Cohen, Avi Gesser and Scott Cullen from the case will affect the current trial date, Carr said. He declined to elaborate.
The development was outlined in a filing in federal court in New Orleans. U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. must approve the request.
Records list four other prosecutors as counsel of record on the Mix case. Two of them are relatively new to the case — one joined in June and another in July.
Mix is accused of deleting text messages and voice mails about the amount of oil that was flowing into the Gulf after a BP well a mile beneath the sea blew out, triggering an explosion on the Transocean-owned Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers.
He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and is scheduled for trial Dec. 2.
Two BP well-site leaders and a former BP executive also face charges in connection with the disaster and are awaiting trial.