Ex-BP well managers must face Gulf spill criminal charges

Tue Jan 28, 2014 1:04pm EST
 
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Two former BP Plc (BP.L: Quote) well site managers have failed to win the dismissal of involuntary manslaughter charges over their roles in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil drilling disaster, which killed 11 people.

In a decision late Monday, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval in New Orleans rejected the argument by Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine that the laws under which they were charged were unconstitutionally vague because they lacked a clear "standard of care" that had been violated.

"Taking the facts as alleged in the indictment as true," Duval wrote, "it is difficult to find that any person would not be apprised that general negligent conduct, much less grossly negligent conduct, in this matter would not be sanctioned," particularly given "the inherent danger in deepwater drilling."

Prosecutors accused Kaluza and Vidrine of failing to properly supervise a "negative test" meant to keep gases and fluids from entering the Macondo well, and failing to contact onshore engineers upon learning of "serious warning signs" that the well was not secure.

Shaun Clarke, a lawyer representing Kaluza, and Robert Habans, a lawyer representing Vidrine, declined to comment.

The office of U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite in New Orleans was not immediately available to comment.

Kaluza and Vidrine face a June 2 trial on 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count alleging a Clean Water Act violation.

They had faced 23 counts, but Duval on December 10 dismissed 11 counts of ship officers' manslaughter, saying the defendants had no navigation functions in their jobs.   Continued...

 
Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this April 21, 2010 file handout image. REUTERS/U.S. Coast Guard/Files/Handout