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Ex-BP Engineer Spill Jury Says It Can’t Reach Verdict

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- The jury hearing the case against a former BP Plc engineer accused of deliberately destroying evidence sought in a U.S. probe of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico well explosion and oil spill resumed deliberating after a judge said not to give up.

“We are at a standstill, since before lunch, any advice?” jurors said in a note yesterday to U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr., who is presiding over the trial in New Orleans.

Duval read the jury a so-called “Allen charge,” urging the panel to come to a verdict. The jurors resumed deliberating afterward, before stopping for the night. The jury was scheduled to return today.

Prosecutors charged the engineer, Kurt Mix, with two counts of obstruction of justice last year, alleging he deleted from his mobile phone text messages and voicemails related to BP’s effort to estimate the size of the spill. Mix was a senior engineer involved in leading efforts to cap the Macondo well as crude gushed into the gulf.

Mix denied intentionally destroying evidence and pleaded not guilty.

Seafood Industry

In a different case related to the 2010 spill, BP yesterday asked a U.S. judge to stop payments in the $2.3 billion seafood-industry portion of its settlement over the spill pending an investigation of fraud claims against a plaintiffs’ attorney.

BP also sued the lawyer, Mikal Watts, alleging that he fraudulently claimed to represent more than 40,000 spill victims in the seafood industry, primarily crew members of fishing boats.

The company agreed to pay $9.2 billion to settle most private-party claims over the spill. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier approved the settlement last December. The London-based company yesterday asked him to suspend further payments to seafood claimants. BP officials said the U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether Watts falsified client lists tied to oil-spill compensation claims by fishermen.

The case is U.S. v. Mix, 12-cr-00171, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net; Daniel Lawton in federal court in New Orleans at daniel.lawton@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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