Judge asked to dismiss ex-BP engineer's indictment
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former BP engineer claims newly disclosed transcripts show "serious, recurring defects" in the grand jury proceedings that led to his indictment on charges he deleted text messages and voicemails about the company's response to its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Kurt Mix's attorneys asked a federal judge on Monday to dismiss his indictment on two counts of obstruction of justice before a trial scheduled to start in December.
Mix's lawyers said prosecutors never provided the grand jury with any evidence about the content of the text messages and voicemails that Mix is charged with deleting. They also claim prosecutors made errors in instructing the grand jury.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. didn't immediately rule on Mix's latest request to dismiss the charges against him. Duval previously refused to dismiss one of the two counts against him.
Mix, a resident of Katy, Texas, originally was indicted in May 2012 after an "evidentiary presentation" that lasted less than 10 minutes and included testimony by only a single witness, an FBI agent, "from whom the prosecutor elicited hearsay testimony through a litany of leading questions," according to Mix's attorneys.
"In fact, the prosecutor apparently did not even introduce copies of the allegedly deleted text messages into the evidentiary record," they wrote. "Thus, the grand jury was not asked to consider — nor, on the evidentiary record before it, able to consider — the content of the allegedly deleted text messages."
Mix's lawyers also claim prosecutors' errors in instructing the grand jury were "numerous, spanned multiple proceedings, and went to the core elements that distinguish felony obstruction of justice from the mere violation of a 'legal hold notice.'"
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on Tuesday but said prosecutors will respond to Mix's arguments "at the appropriate time in court."
Mix's most recent of three indictments, handed up in June, didn't add any counts and made few substantive changes to the previous versions. However, it contained a new allegation that he admitted to BP attorneys that he had deleted some texts and voicemails from his iPhone, including texts related to the company's blown-out Macondo well.
Mix's previous indictment claimed he received roughly 350 voicemails, including about 40 from a supervisor and approximately 15 from a contractor, and deleted all of them. The new indictment merely accuses him of deleting one voicemail from the supervisor, one voicemail from the contractor and one from a call that went through BP's general switchboard.
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press