On April 20, 2010, the Gulf Coast experienced one of the worst maritime accidents and environmental catastrophes in history: the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon. The spill claimed the lives of 11 offshore workers, injured many more, and caused billions of dollars worth of property and economic damages.
The news reports covering the Deepwater Horizon accident have typically focused on the environmental impacts and the massive fines and settlements that BP has paid. However, one thing that has received less attention is the criminal side of the case.
BP and Some Employees Were Charged With Various Crimes
In addition to the civil settlement, BP previously pled guilty to manslaughter charges for the deaths of the 11 offshore workers killed in the explosion and to charges of pollution law violations. Two wellsite managers also face criminal charges for manslaughter, but their cases have not yet been tried. An engineer charged with destroying evidence was convicted, but the conviction was reversed and a new trial was ordered.
Most recently, David Rainey, the former Vice President of Gulf of Mexico Operations for BP, had his case decided by a New Orleans jury.
BP Executive Not Guilty of Lying About Spill Size
Rainey faced two charges: (1) obstruction of justice and (2) lying to federal investigators about the size of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. However, on the first day of his trial, United States District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt threw out the obstruction of justice charge, leaving only the false statement charges to be tried.
On Friday afternoon, the jury finished its deliberations and found Rainey not guilty of lying to investigators. The not guilty came days after Judge Engelhardt had criticized the government for relying on an investigator’s notes rather than statements from Rainey himself. After the jury reached its verdict, Judge Engelhardt expressed his opinion that reached the correct the result based upon the evidence presented during the trial.
The prosecution will now have to regroup and prepare for the trials of the remaining BP defendants.