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Former BP executive David Rainey was acquitted on charges of lying to congressional investigators after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the Associated Press reported.
As BP’s former Vice President of exploration in the Gulf, Rainey was the highest-level BP official to face criminal charges following the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Oil gushed out of the Macondo well and into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days before it was finally and successfully capped.
Eleven rig workers working on or near the Deepwater Horizon died as a result of the rig’s explosion, and contentious environmental effects due to the subsequent spill are still under investigation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration five years later.
Rainey was part of BP’s response team after the spill. Though the Macondo well was spewing oil into the Gulf at a rate of 36,000-60,000 barrels per day, according to a figure by The Guardian, Rainey reported that only 5,000 barrels were being released daily.
The prosecution argued that Rainey made this claim despite evidence and documents within BP’s possession to the contrary, The New York Times reported.
Prosecutors alleged that Rainey purposefully low-balled the figure to match early estimates by NOAA, and in doing so, lied to federal investigators in 2011.
Rainey’s defense team maintained that the incorrect figure was an honest mistake.
The jury took around two hours to announce its decision on Friday, and U.S. District Judge Englehardt threw his support behind the verdict shortly after.
Rainey’s family and defense team were visibly relieved, according to The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.
Rainey’s acquittal is the latest in a number of setbacks for the prosecution in cases related to the DWH spill.
Judge Englehardt dismissed another charge against Rainey on Monday, this one for obstructing the same investigation.
Before the acquittal, prosecutors also asked that an overturned conviction of Kurt Mix, formerly a BP engineer, be reinstated, the AP reported.
Mix was convicted in 2013 of deleting messages related to the spill, but the conviction was overturned because one of the jurors brought in outside evidence that compromised the trial.
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