Former BP drilling engineer Kurt Mix arrives at the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. Jurors are deadlocked in Mix's trial on two counts of obstruction of justice. He is charged with deleting text messages about the company's response to its massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The first criminal trial produced by the Justice Department's sweeping probe of BP's massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ended Wednesday with a jury convicting a drilling engineer of trying to obstruct investigators by deleting text messages from his cellular phone.
Kurt Mix, a former BP employee who worked on the company's efforts to stop the nation's worst offshore oil spill, embraced stunned relatives and friends after jurors convicted him of an obstruction-of-justice charge punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The jury acquitted Mix of a second count of the same charge.
Mix, a 52-year-old from Katy, Texas, declined to be interviewed after the verdict, but his attorneys vowed to fight his conviction — a major milestone in an investigation that already has resulted in a guilty plea by BP itself.
Attorney General Eric Holder visited New Orleans in June 2010 to announce that the Justice Department had opened civil and criminal investigations of the spill. Holder vowed the department would be "extremely forceful in our response" if it found any evidence of illegal behavior.