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Ex-BP engineer, while seeking to have conviction thrown out, seeks delay of sentencing hearing

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NEW ORLEANS — A former BP engineer has asked for a delay in his sentencing on an obstruction of justice charge related to the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Kurt Mix was convicted in December for deleting text messages in what prosecutors said was an attempt to hamper the government's criminal investigation of the spill resulting from the deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. He is scheduled for a sentencing hearing April 23.

However, he also is awaiting U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval's ruling on motions that would overturn that conviction. His attorneys noted in filings this week that Duval has said the ruling could take some time. They said a delay in Mix's scheduled sentencing hearing until July 30 or later would enable Mix to seek temporary employment.

"Mr. Mix is presently seeking to obtain at least temporary employment in the oil industry," the defense motion says. "If Mr. Mix has certainty that no sentencing hearing will occur until at least July 30, 2014, he will be able to represent to prospective employers that he will be available for at least a three-month shift on a rig site. This will make it easier for him to obtain temporary employment and to continue to support his family during this interim period, while his post-trial motions remain pending."

Mix is awaiting a ruling from Duval on a motion for a new trial, based on information that the jury forewoman heard statements outside of the trial that influenced the jury's verdict. He also has asked Duval to formally acquit him, arguing the evidence in the case was insufficient for conviction.

Prosecutors filed a motion Thursday saying a brief delay in sentencing would be acceptable but the July 30 date suggested by the defense is unreasonable. "The defendant's circumstances have remained the same since his conviction on December 18, 2013," the government filing said. "More than three months have now passed since that time, during which he has had certainty to present to potential employers that his sentencing hearing would be in late March and then late April."

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