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

June 13, 2012

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
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

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.


Attorneys for ex-BP engineer say ‘third-party’ evidence proves innocence

May 15, 2012

The Houston Chronicle on May 14, 2012 released the following:

“By Zain Shauk

Attorneys for a former BP engineer accused of deleting text messages about the size of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill said Monday an unnamed third party holds evidence that proves his innocence.

The attorneys for Kurt Mix, a 50-year-old drilling engineer from Katy, said the evidence is protected under the attorney-client privilege of a third party and “conclusively demonstrates” that Mix did not obstruct justice by deleting evidence, according to a motion filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

Lawyers for Mix, the only person so far to face criminal charges in connection with the BP spill, are asking the court to force disclosure of the evidence. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors charge that Mix deleted more than 200 text messages, including one specific message sent on May 26, 2010, that revealed he understood a proposed “top kill” operation to shut down the Macondo well would not work because of the size of the oil spill, according to a criminal complaint filed last month.

Mix’s attorneys argued the evidence from the undisclosed third party would refute the government allegations.

“That evidence establishes affirmatively that Mix had no intent to hide either flow rate or top kill information and that he in fact hid neither,” the attorneys’ motion said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined to comment.

According to the criminal complaint, Mix deleted strings of texts to his BP supervisor, the drilling engineering manager for the Gulf of Mexico, and an outside contractor. Mix’s attorneys, in their latest motion, disclosed what they said were records of text messages between Mix and the contractor, which contained no details about oil flows or spill response operations.

One of the specific messages in question, about the spill’s size and flow rate, was sent from Mix to his BP supervisor, according to the complaint.

BP had said publicly that oil was spewing out of the well at a pace of about 5,000 barrels a day and that a top kill operation was unlikely to succeed if the flow exceeded 15,000 barrels a day, according to the complaint. But Mix’s estimates, via email and text, were higher than BP’s public statements, the government says.

On the morning of May 26, 2010, BP commenced a top kill operation, according to the criminal complaint.

The text Mix allegedly sent to his BP supervisor at 10:25 p.m. on May 26 said, “Too much flowrate – over 15,000 and too large an orifice. Pumped over 12,800 (barrels) of mud today plus 5 separate bridging pills. Tired. Going home and getting ready for round three tomorrow.”

On May 28, BP said the top kill operation was proceeding as planned, then announced its failure the following day.

Although the government alleges that Mix deleted the texts from his iPhone, it has used much of the material that he preserved in the case against him, his attorney, Joan McPhee, has said. She could not be reached for comment Monday.

BP declined to comment.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

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.


Former BP Engineer Arrested for Alleged Obstruction of Justice in Connection with the Deepwater Horizon Criminal Investigation

April 24, 2012

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on April 24, 2012 released the following:

First Criminal Charges to Result from the Deepwater Horizon Task Force Investigation

WASHINGTON – Kurt Mix, a former engineer for BP plc, was arrested today on charges of intentionally destroying evidence requested by federal criminal authorities investigating the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon disaster, announced Attorney General Eric Holder, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten of the Eastern District of Louisiana and Kevin Perkins, Acting Executive Assistant Director for the FBI’s Criminal Cyber Response and Services Branch.

Mix, 50, of Katy, Texas, was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice in a criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of Louisiana and unsealed today.

“The department has filed initial charges in its investigation into the Deepwater Horizon disaster against an individual for allegedly deleting records relating to the amount of oil flowing from the Macondo well after the explosion that led to the devastating tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Attorney General Holder. “The Deepwater Horizon Task Force is continuing its investigation into the explosion and will hold accountable those who violated the law in connection with the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.”

According to the affidavit in support of a criminal complaint and arrest warrant, on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig experienced an uncontrolled blowout and related explosions while finishing the Macondo well. The catastrophe killed 11 men on board and resulted in the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

According to court documents, Mix was a drilling and completions project engineer for BP. Following the blowout, Mix worked on internal BP efforts to estimate the amount of oil leaking from the well and was involved in various efforts to stop the leak. Those efforts included, among others, Top Kill, the failed BP effort to pump heavy mud into the blown out wellhead to try to stop the oil flow. BP sent numerous notices to Mix requiring him to retain all information concerning Macondo, including his text messages.

On or about Oct. 4, 2010, after Mix learned that his electronic files were to be collected by a vendor working for BP’s lawyers, Mix allegedly deleted on his iPhone a text string containing more than 200 text messages with a BP supervisor. The deleted texts, some of which were recovered forensically, included sensitive internal BP information collected in real-time as the Top Kill operation was occurring, which indicated that Top Kill was failing. Court documents allege that, among other things, Mix deleted a text he had sent on the evening of May 26, 2010, at the end of the first day of Top Kill. In the text, Mix stated, among other things, “Too much flowrate – over 15,000.” Before Top Kill commenced, Mix and other engineers had concluded internally that Top Kill was unlikely to succeed if the flow rate was greater than 15,000 barrels of oil per day (BOPD). At the time, BP’s public estimate of the flow rate was 5,000 BOPD – three times lower than the minimum flow rate indicated in Mix’s text.

In addition, on or about Aug. 19, 2011, after learning that his iPhone was about to be imaged by a vendor working for BP’s outside counsel, Mix allegedly deleted a text string containing more than 100 text messages with a BP contractor with whom Mix had worked on various issues concerning how much oil was flowing from the Macondo well after the blowout. By the time Mix deleted those texts, he had received numerous legal hold notices requiring him to preserve such data and had been communicating with a criminal defense lawyer in connection with the pending grand jury investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

A complaint is merely a charge and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted, Mix faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 as to each count.

The Deepwater Horizon Task Force, based in New Orleans, is supervised by Assistant Attorney General Breuer and led by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John D. Buretta, who serves as the Director of the task force. The task force includes prosecutors from the Criminal Division and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and other U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and investigating agents from the FBI, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal law enforcement agencies.

The task force’s investigation of this and other matters concerning the Deepwater Horizon disaster is ongoing.

The case is being prosecuted by task force Deputy Directors Derek Cohen and Avi Gesser of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and task force prosecutors Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Pickens II of the Eastern District of Louisiana and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Cullen of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.”

18 U.S.C. § 1512

US v. Kurt E. Mix – Federal Criminal Complaint

US v. Kurt E. Mix – Affidavit supporting the Federal Criminal Complaint

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

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.


Feds make first arrest in BP oil spill case

April 24, 2012

Fox News on April 24, 2012 released the following:

“NEW ORLEANS – The Justice Department says the first criminal charges in the Deepwater Horizon disaster have been filed against a former BP engineer who allegedly destroyed evidence.

Kurt Mix, of Katy, Texas was arrested on charges of intentionally destroying evidence. He faces two counts of obstruction of justice.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, killing 11 men and spewing 200 million gallons of oil.

The Justice Department says the 50-year-old Mix is accused of deleting a string of 200 text messages with a BP supervisor in October 2010 that involved internal BP information about how efforts to cap the well were failing.

BP officials did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

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.