NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A lawyer for BP PLC entered a not-guilty plea for the company as it was arraigned Tuesday on charges stemming from a deadly 2010 rig explosion and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The plea in federal court was a procedural move paving the way for a later guilty plea. It doesn't signal that BP is backing away from its plea agreement, company and government lawyers said.
"Nothing in today's proceedings reflects any change in the plea agreement between BP and the government that was announced on Nov. 15," BP spokesman Scott Dean said in a statement. "In accordance with court procedures, BP will present the signed plea agreement to the presiding judge at the appropriate time for the court's consideration."
BP announced earlier this month that it will plead guilty to manslaughter, obstruction of Congress and other charges and pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties to resolve a federal probe of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Attorneys for BP and the Justice Department are scheduled to meet Dec. 11 with U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance to discuss a date for pleading guilty. Vance must decide whether to sign off on BP's plea deal.
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