This Man Was Convicted for the BP Oil Spill—but Is It Justice?

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They were, perhaps, the costliest texts ever deleted.

A federal jury on Wednesday convicted former BP engineer Kurt Mix on an obstruction charge, siding with prosecutors who said Mix deleted more than 300 text messages related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

While executives and others have so far evaded conviction for the devastating spill that changed the Gulf of Mexico, Mix is the first person to be successfully prosecuted for the catastrophe.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced in March, the U.S. Justice Department said in a written statement.

“Today a jury in New Orleans found that Kurt Mix purposefully obstructed the efforts of law enforcement during the investigation of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman. “This prosecution shows the commitment of the Justice Department to hold accountable those who attempt to interfere with the administration of justice.” 

The deletions followed explosions aboard the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 employees and unleashed the country’s worst environmental disaster. Many of the texts referred to how much oil was flowing into the Gulf.

BP estimates it has paid nearly $12.8 billion in federal fines and claims resulting from the spill. The disaster devastated fisheries and other industries along the Gulf Coast, and biologists say the spill has had long-lasting effects on fish, mammals, birds, and other wildlife in the region.

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