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Gulf oil spill: Former BP engineer's retrial postponed in case involving deleted text messages

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NEW ORLEANS — The August retrial of a former BP engineer accused of obstructing justice in an investigation of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been postponed while an appeals court decides whether a judge was right to throw out his earlier conviction.

Federal prosecutors allege that Kurt Mix illegally deleted text messages to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor involving the amount of oil flowing from BP's Macondo well after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

Mix, who pleaded not guilty, was convicted in December. But U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval later ordered a new trial. He ruled that the verdict had been tainted after the jury forewoman told a then-deadlocked jury that she had heard something outside of the trial that affirmed her view that Mix was guilty.

Federal prosecutors have appealed Duval's decision. So, Duval on Tuesday canceled the August trial date, saying it will be rescheduled "at the appropriate time."

Prosecutors say Mix deleted the text messages to stymie a grand jury investigation of the spill.

Mix's attorneys argued there is ample evidence he shared information about the flow rate throughout the government investigation. They also said prosecutors failed to prove Mix knew the information he deleted would be pertinent to a grand jury investigation — an investigation they said he did not know about and that had not yet even begun.

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