Ever since the massive oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon well two years ago, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating the spill. And the feds have finally filed the first criminal charges, for obstruction of justice, against an engineer named Kurt Mix who worked on the oil spill. Mix, it turns out, deleted 300 text messages that contained sensitive information about the extent of the spill, just before lawyers were going to collect that sort of information from him.
The DOJ’s case focuses on two incidents. In the first, “after Mix learned that his electronic files were to be collected by vendor working for BP’s lawyers,” he allegedly deleted a string of 200 text messages from his iPhone, the DOJ says. Those messages “included sensitive internal BP information collected in real-time as the Top Kill operation was occurring, which indicated that Top Kill was failing.”
In the second, a couple of weeks later, after Mix found out his iPhone was going to be imaged, he deleted another string of texts, this one 100 long, about how much oil was coming from the well.
In the aftermath of the oil spill, the estimates for its magnitude kept getting revised up. Part of what’s at issue here is if BP employees intentionally kept that information from the public. Mix’s lawyers say that he provided lawyers with information equivalent to what he deleted in different forms.
This round of legal blowback for BP and the other companies involved in the spill is just beginning. The DOJ has indicated that it’s still deep in this investigation and more arrests could be coming.