BP well-site leaders seek trial delay in Gulf oil spill criminal case

Lawyers for two BP well-site leaders on Wednesday asked a federal judge for a nine-month delay in their trial on charges of manslaughter in the deaths of 11 workers  killed in the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon  drilling  rig.

The attorneys for Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine said in a filing in federal court in New Orleans that due to the complexity of the case arising from the Gulf of Mexico disaster  and the need to review voluminous documents prosecutors turned over to them, they won’t be ready for trial on Jan. 14.

The filing says the government opposes the request for a delay. There was no immediate ruling on the request.

“The prosecution may claim the case is ‘straightforward.’ That is preposterous,” attorneys David Gerger and Robert Habans said in the joint defense motion.

The charges against Kaluza and Vidrine stem from a botched test on BP’s Macondo well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana hours before the well blew out and triggered the rig explosion.

The test was deemed successful, and engineers proceeded with the temporary abandonment of the well, which called for the removal of mud from the well. But the cement seal didn’t hold, and oil and gas had seeped through, later touching off the explosion.

Prosecutors say Kaluza and Vidrine observed clear indications that the Macondo was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well, but failed to alert managers on shore at that time to the problem.

Kaluza and Vidrine have pleaded not guilty.

The oil spill that followed the rig explosion was the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.