NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge has refused to throw out one of two obstruction of justice charges an ex-engineer for energy company BP faces after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Kurt Mix is accused of deleting text messages about BP PLC's response to the disaster.
Prosecutors claim Mix deliberately deleted more than 200 text messages to and from a supervisor and more than 100 others to and from a contractor to prevent them from being used in a grand jury probe of what Attorney General Eric Holder has called the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Mix, of Katy, Texas, pleaded not guilty on May 3 to both counts. Each count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. To date, he is the only BP employee indicted in connection with the spill.
Defense lawyers said Thursday that the second of the two charges should be dismissed because it dealt with texts that amounted to innocuous messages among friends, most of them having little or nothing to do with work on the spill that resulted from the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.