Former BP Engineer, Kurt Mix, Trying to Clear His Name

Forbes on June 12, 2012 released the following:

Walter Pavlo, Contributor

“Kurt Mix, former drilling engineer who was arrested on April 24th, is trying to gain access to information that could clear his name. Mix is accused by federal prosecutors of deleting two (2) text messages from his iPhone that were related to the flow rate of oil from BP‘s Macondo well (Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill). The charge is obstruction of justice.

In a motion filed yesterday, Mix is asking for access to BP’s confidential (attorney client privileged information) files which he says will prove that he was not obstructing justice when he “may” have deleted those two messages. Where the government says that Mix “corruptly” destroyed two text messages, Mix’s attorney, Joan McPhee, states in her motion that at the time Mix was supposedly deleting the offending text messages, he was simultaneously “affirmatively cooperating” with the government’s investigation and disclosing the very same information (flow rate of oil into the Gulf of Mexico) that he is accused of deleting (texts). However, the information Mix needs is in the hands of his former employer, BP, and its lawyers. In other words, it is protected attorney-client information that BP is using to defend itself against fines it faces in federal court. Whereas BP’s fight to keep the information confidential is about money, Mix’s fight is to keep his freedom.

This case is more about the money than Kurt Mix deleting a few text messages. Mix’s ordeal is in the middle of the larger fight between BP and the US government on how much oil spilled. While no one will ever know the real figure, BP is seeking to minimize the amount spilled, and thus the subsequent fine under the Clean Water Act. BP is hoping for “only” a $15 billion penalty, while the U.S. is looking to get as much as $17.6 billion. Kurt Mix finds his case in this $2.6 billion difference.

Yesterday, BP lost a request to get e-mails from the White-House (Executive Branch) related to the oil spill. The government won its right to keep the e-mails confidential. BP’s lawyer Robert Gasaway said that keeping the documents private was “fundamentally unfair” because they address how much oil was being spilled and BP’s role in capping the well. So the U.S. government is allowed to withhold data from BP that discusses how much oil spilled, while Kurt Mix is accused of withholding (deleting) text messages associated with the same spill? In fact, there are no missing text messages, all the parties know the contents of the information that was deleted. The allegation is whether Mix deleted the messages with the intent of obstructing justice (illegal) ….or did he just delete the messages for the hell of it (not illegal). A jury might have to decide. I would put this case right there with other wasted prosecutions of John Edwards, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans has scheduled a trial for January 14, 2013 to determine blame of the spill. Perhaps the government should call off the dogs, drop the prosecution, on Kurt Mix and ask him to be a witness at that trial …. but BP might have a problem with that. How can the guy win?”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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