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.