Oil spill engineer waits for jury’s phone verdict

A US jury was yesterday deciding whether a former BP engineer broke the law or harmlessly swiped his finger across a mobile phone when he deleted hundreds of text messages following the deadly Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Prosecutors in New Orleans said Kurt Mix, 52, was trying to destroy evidence of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blow-out when he deleted two strings of text messages – one with a supervisor and another with a BP contractor.

“It’s a crime and Kurt Mix should be held accountable,” said US Justice Department prosecutor Leo Tsao in his closing arguments.

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But defence lawyer Michael McGovern said the charges against Mix were “unfair and baseless” and the product of investigators’ “rank incompetence”. He described Mix as a brilliant engineer who worked tirelessly to seal the blown-out well and “doesn’t have a corrupt bone in his body”.

“You did not hear one bad word about Kurt Mix. Not a single one,” he told the jury. “Not one bad word about Kurt’s character. Not one bad word about Kurt’s work.”

Mix did not give evidence at his two-week-long trial. He is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a £250,000 (£153,000) fine.

Mix was one of four current or former BP employees charged with crimes related to the spill.