Kurt Mix Facts
The spill was a tragedy, which has only been made worse by the prosecution of Mix who deleted innocuous email texts while working long hours to find a way to stop the oil spill.

— Walter Pavlo, Forbes contributor

Summary of Case

At 6:30 a.m. on April 24, 2012, federal agents, wearing Kevlar vests and with guns drawn, raided Kurt Mix’s home in Katy, Texas. A week later, Kurt Mix was indicted on two felony counts of obstructing justice for deleting text message strings from his cell phone. This indictment came nearly two years after Kurt stepped in to help stop the biggest off-shore oil disaster in history.

The government’s charge that Kurt deleted the text message strings in an effort to hinder the investigation of the BP spill could not be further from the truth. In fact, at a document collection meeting shortly after the spill, Kurt offered BP’s document collection vendor complete access to his phone with all of the text messages still on it. The vendor chose not to collect the phone.

Eleven months after that initial meeting and almost a year after the spill ended, BP’s document collection vendor asked to examine his phone. Kurt disclosed that it was possible he had since deleted work-related text messages. Kurt immediately hired a forensic expert to recover all of the text messages, and he then turned all of the recovered messages over to DOJ.

Most importantly, Mix meticulously preserved over 10,000 spill records. He was proud of his work and wanted anyone who was interested, including investigators, to have the full record of everything he did. These records included his responder logbooks, emails, detailed engineering reports, simulations, and even handwritten Post-It notes.

After the defense team filed a motion raising concerns about the prosecutors’ failure to turn over evidence supporting Kurt’s innocence, the government moved to withdraw all three members of the task force prosecution team. A new prosecution team was assigned for trial.

When Mr. Mix finally went to trial in December of 2013, the jury acquitted on one of the two counts of obstruction of justice. Although the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the other count, that verdict was soon revealed to have been corrupted by egregious jury misconduct. Based on this misconduct, a federal judge threw out the verdict and an appeals court affirmed that the verdict could not stand. The verdict was set aside, and a new trial was ordered.

Shortly before his retrial was to begin, the Justice Department offered to drop the remaining obstruction charge. Kurt would serve no jail time and pay no fines. All the Justice Department would require was that Kurt acknowledge that he deleted a text message conversation with a close friend, without first obtaining permission from BP, a misdemeanor violation. Kurt accepted this resolution—acknowledging a deletion he had admitted from the start—in order to protect himself and his family from any further entanglement with the criminal justice system.

 

Timeline

Explosion

An uncontrolled blowout of hydrocarbons causes an explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico

View Photo Read Email 20 Apr 2010

Kurt joins the Deepwater Horizon disaster response team

Read more 21 Apr 2010
Capping Stack

Kurt helps successfully execute the “capping stack” procedure, which stops the flow of oil

Read more 15 Jul 2010

The relief well casing program, well intercept, and hydraulic kill — designed and executed by a team on which Kurt served as project lead — successfully intercepts and seals the blown-out Macondo Well over 13,000 feet below the sea floor.

Read more 16 Sep 2010
Spill Response Files

Kurt provides BP’s document collection vendor with complete access to all of his oil spill response files; he offers BP’s document collection vendor his iPhone, with every text message still on it, but the vendor does not take it

Read more 27 Sep 2010

Department of Justice announces creation of “Deepwater Horizon Task Force”

Read more 07 Mar 2011
iPhone Requested

Eleven months after BP’s document collection vendor originally indicated to Kurt that his iPhone was not needed for collection, the vendor now comes back and tells Kurt that it needs to make a copy of the iPhone after all; Kurt tells the vendor that he had already deleted some of his text messages

Read more 22 Aug 2011
Message Recovery

Kurt hires a computer expert to forensically recover the deleted text messages, which he then provides to the Department of Justice

Read more 25 Aug 2011
FBI Perp Walk

FBI agents, with their guns drawn, storm Kurt’s home to arrest him and interrogate his wife; agents take Kurt on a “perp walk”

View Photo Read more 24 Apr 2012
Task Force Indictments

Task Force prosecutors indict Kurt on two felony counts of obstruction of justice for text message string deletions that occurred in October 2010 and August 2011

Read more 02 May 2012

Task Force prosecutors tell federal judge that Kurt’s nearly perfect preservation of his oil spill response records is irrelevant to whether he was trying to hide evidence

Read more 09 Aug 2012

Kurt asks federal judge to dismiss Count 2 of the indictment because the deleted text messages he exchanged with his friend Wilson Arabie had nothing to do with the oil spill response

Read more 02 Oct 2012

Task Force prosecutors promise the judge that there are important “nuances” in the deleted Arabie text messages; those nuances never materialize

Read more 08 Nov 2012
Brady Materials

Kurt’s defense lawyers discover that the Task Force prosecutors were withholding evidence supporting Kurt’s innocence (“Brady materials”)

Read more 16 Apr 2013
DOJ Removes Prosecutors

Department of Justice moves to withdraw from the case the Task Force prosecutors who indicted Kurt

Read more 21 Aug 2013
Manipulation of Grand Jury Process

Kurt asks judge to dismiss the indictment because the grand jury transcripts reveal that Task Force prosecutors unconstitutionally manipulated the grand jury’s decision to indict

Read more 26 Aug 2013
Trial Begins

Kurt’s trial begins

Read more 02 Dec 2013
Request For Mistrial

Kurt’s lawyers move for a mistrial due to gross prosecutorial misconduct during trial

Read more 10 Dec 2013
Judge Denies Mistrial

Judge denies mistrial motion but warns Task Force’s new lead prosecutor her conduct was right “on the precipice”

Read more 10 Dec 2013

After the close of the prosecution’s case, judge admonishes Task Force prosecutors that nothing in the Arabie text message string had anything to do with the oil flow rate

Read more 12 Dec 2013
Verdict

Jury reaches a verdict (not guilty on Arabie deletion, guilty on Sprague deletion)

Read more 18 Dec 2013
New Trial Request

Kurt’s defense lawyers file a motion for a new trial, after learning that the jury engaged in unconstitutional misconduct during its deliberations

Read more 02 Jan 2014
New Trial Granted

Judge grants Kurt a new trial, finding that the jury’s misconduct unconstitutionally polluted its guilty verdict

Read more 12 Jun 2014

Task Force asks Court of Appeals to reinstate the jury’s corrupted verdict

Read more 31 Oct 2014

Kurt’s lawyers respond to the Task Force’s appeal brief

Read more 09 Jan 2015
David Rainey

Federal judge throws out a separate obstruction of Congress charge that the Task Force filed against BP employee David Rainey

Read more 02 Jun 2015
David Rainey

Jury acquits BP employee David Rainey of the remaining charge against him

Read more 05 Jun 2015
New Trial Granted

Court of Appeals unanimously agrees that Kurt is entitled to a new trial

Read more 30 Jun 2015
Dismissal Of Charges

Task Force agrees to dismiss all obstruction of justice charges against Kurt

View Photo 06 Nov 2015

 

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