A former BP drilling engineer was convicted today of deleting text messages to obstruct a federal investigation of the company's massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, making him the first former or current BP official to be found guilty in the mess. He now faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Kurt Mix will be released on his present bond, and sentencing is scheduled for March 26. He hugged his friends and family before departing the courthouse hurriedly.
Trailing behind her brother in the lobby, Bridget Mix called the verdict "just unbelievable. ... You can't wrap your head around any of it." Prosecutors argued that the 52-year-old engineer from Katy, Texas, was trying to destroy evidence when he deleted hundreds of text messages and two voicemails he exchanged with a supervisor and a BP contractor. He was charged on two counts, but acquitted on one. Mix's lawyers said their client didn't hide anything, and preserved other records duplicating the info in the texts. "We remain as convinced as ever of Kurt Mix's innocence," his defense attorney said. Three other current or former BP employees are still awaiting trial. In other bad news for BP today, the Wall Street Journal reports that dolphins in the area around Deepwater Horizon are being hard-hit by lung cancer and other ailments "consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity." (Read more Kurt Mix stories.)