WASHINGTON - Kurt Mix, a former engineer for BP plc, was arrested Tuesday on charges of intentionally destroying evidence related to the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon disaster, according to prosecutors.
Mix, the first person arrested in the BP oil spill, is being released on $100,000 bail.
The former BP engineer is accused of deleting more than 300 text messages about the amount of oil flowing from the blown-out well and the company's failed attempts to plug the gusher in 2010.
Mix appeared before a judge in Houston, shackled at his hands and feet. He said very little during the hearing, answering routine questions about the obstruction of justice charges he faces.
The judge told him that if convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
An attorney for Mix declined to comment after the hearing.
Mix, 50, of Katy, Texas, was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice in a criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of Louisiana and unsealed today.
"The department has filed initial charges in its investigation into the Deepwater Horizon disaster against an individual for allegedly deleting records relating to the amount of oil flowing from the Macondo well after the explosion that led to the devastating tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico," said Attorney General Holder. "The Deepwater Horizon Task Force is continuing its investigation into the explosion and will hold accountable those who violated the law in connection with the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history."
According to the affidavit in support of a criminal complaint and arrest warrant, on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig experienced an uncontrolled blowout and related explosions while finishing the Macondo well. The catastrophe killed 11 men on board and resulted in the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
According to court documents, Mix was a drilling and completions project engineer for BP. Following the blowout, Mix worked on internal BP efforts to estimate the amount of oil leaking from the well and was involved in various efforts to stop the leak. Those efforts included, among others, Top Kill, the failed BP effort to pump heavy mud into the blown out wellhead to try to stop the oil flow. BP sent numerous notices to Mix requiring him to retain all information concerning Macondo, including his text messages.
A complaint is merely a charge and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, Mix faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.
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