Join The Discussion

 

New arena at Will Rogers takes shape


The proposed Will Rogers Memorial Center arena continues to take shape as voters head for a Nov. 4 election to decide whether to approve new taxes to help pay for the $450 million facility.

read more >

Fort Worth-based Woodmont plans $80M Hard Rock Hotel retail center

Woodmont Outlets of Fort Worth, an affiliate of The Woodmont Co., has partnered with Cherokee Nation Businesses for a proposed upscale retail development at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

read more >

Cooking Class: Fort Worth chef brings home the gold

Toques off to Timothy Prefontaine. The executive chef at the iconic Fort Worth Club is currently the best in the nation, according to the American Culinary Federation. Prefontaine earned the title of 2014 U.S.A.’s Chef of the

read more >

Barnett still packs economic punch, study finds

Despite reduced drilling and unstable gas prices, Fort Worth continues reaping the rewards of the Barnett Shale, according to a newly released study by The Perryman Group.7

read more >

Fort Worth firm 'simplifies' advertising

Reaching customers requires more than price slashing and flashy ads. In today’s competitive marketplace, machines – not men and women – are essential to tapping new markets and

read more >

FBI agent testifies at ex-BP engineer's trial
 


MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Some of the text messages that a former BP drilling engineer deleted from his cellphone contained information that could have been evidence in the Justice Department's investigation of the company's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, an FBI agent testified Wednesday at the engineer's trial on obstruction of justice charges.

Investigators recovered a string of deleted text messages that Kurt Mix had sent to a supervisor while he worked on a team of experts who were trying to seal BP's blown-out Macondo well. Special Agent Kelly Bryson, the first witness at Mix's trial, said some of those messages helped show what BP engineers knew at the time about the amount of oil gushing out of the well.

Mix deleted from his iPhone a string of 331 text messages to the supervisor, Jonathan Sprague, in October 2010 and another string of 182 messages to BP contractor Wilson Arabie in August 2011.

"I would have presented those to the grand jury," said Bryson, who served on a task force that the Justice Department formed after the blowout triggered an explosion that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.

During cross-examination by one of Mix's attorneys, Bryson acknowledged that investigators received many emails and other documents that Mix had saved on his laptop. Mix's lawyers say their client preserved and turned over records containing the same information that he is accused of trying to conceal from the grand jury.

Bryson said the FBI's probe focused on "what was known publicly and what was known privately" inside BP in the weeks after the blowout. Information about oil flow rates was "absolutely crucial" to the investigation, she added.

Mix worked on BP's unsuccessful effort to halt the spill using a technique called "top kill" and had access to internal data about the rate that oil was flowing from the well. On May 26, 2010, the day the top kill attempt began, Mix estimated in a text to a supervisor that more than 630,000 gallons of oil per day were spilling — three times BP's public estimate of 210,000 gallons daily and a rate far greater than what the company said a top kill could handle.

Two days later, after it became clear that the top kill was failing, Sprague texted Mix to ask what "plan b" would be.

"Not sure — big powwow," Mix replied.

Arabie texted Mix on the same day to ask, "u still at it?"

"Yep, but taking another spanking," Mix responded.

Walter Becker, one of Mix's lawyers, said his client saved thousands of Macondo-related records on his laptop, including an email attachment containing flow-rate estimates on April 22, 2010, that were higher than what BP was publicly releasing at the time.

Bryson said the text message exchanges can be valuable to investigators because they are essentially records of private conversations that tend to be more candid.

During the trial's opening statements, Justice Department prosecutor Jennifer Saulino said Mix didn't share his higher flow-rate estimates with a team of outside scientists during a May 2010 meeting. She suggested his silence could have been his motive for later deleting his May 26 text message to Sprague.

Mix's lawyers, however, said he deleted the text messages for innocent reasons. Defense lawyer Joan McPhee said Mix deleted the string of messages with Sprague seconds after Sprague jokingly took his photo during a meeting and texted it to his phone.

Seventeen of the text messages that Mix exchanged with Sprague between April 26, 2010, and April 30, 2010, couldn't be recovered by a government expert. U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. instructed jurors that they can't give "undue importance" to those messages simply because the contents aren't known.

Mix, 52, of Katy, Texas, pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

His trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

 

< back

Email   email
hide
Arena
What do you think of the new plans for a new Will Rogers arena and changes at the Convention Center?