On Monday jury selection commenced for the Justice Department’s case against Kurt Mix, a former BP drilling engineer charged with deleting text messages and voicemails concerning the company’s response to its massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mix, 52, of Katy, Texas, was indicted in 2012 on two counts of obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors claim he deliberately deleted text message conversations to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor to hamper a grand jury’s investigation of the spill.
Mix is one of four former or current BP employees charged with crimes related to the United States’ worst offshore oil spill.
His case is the first to go to trial.
After the spill, BP repeatedly notified Mix of his obligation to preserve all of his spill-related records. The indictment states he deleted a string of text messages to and from the supervisor, Jonathan Sprague, from his iPhone on October 4, 2010.
Several weeks after federal authorities issued a subpoena to BP for copies of some of Mix’s correspondence, Mix allegedly deleted a string of text messages he exchanged with a BP contractor named Wilson Arabie in August 2011.
Each count of obstruction of justice carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges stemming from the deaths of rig workers.
Former BP executive David Rainey is charged with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil spewing from the well.