BP's Deepwater Horizon employees unfairly targeted, their lawyers say

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 2:22am

Lawyers for two BP employees charged with manslaughter over the Deepwater Horizon disaster said the US government had unfairly targeted their clients.

Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, the two highest-ranking BP supervisors on board the rig in the hours before the disaster, were innocent of the charges laid on Thursday, the lawyers said.

The government alleged that "negligent and grossly negligent" conduct by Kaluza and Vidrine led to the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig, the deaths of 11 workers and the release of millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

On April 20, 2010, Kaluza and Vidrine were aware that a drill pipe inserted into the Macondo well to test its pressure showed that the well was not secure, the government said in an indictment. They then failed to alert engineers onshore to the problem and accepted "illogical" explanations from members of the crew as to why pressure in the well was building, according to the indictment. Later that evening, the rig exploded, killing 11 men.

In statements, lawyers for the two men said their clients were being wrongly targeted.

"After nearly three years and tens of millions of dollars in investigation, the government needs a scapegoat," said Shaun Clarke and David Gerger, Kaluza's lawyers. "No one should take any satisfaction in this indictment of an innocent man. This is not justice."

Vidrine's lawyer said the government had "exercised exceedingly poor judgment" in charging his client.

BP has agreed to pay the US government US$4.5 billion and to plead guilty to felony misconduct. A third individual, a former BP executive, was charged with misleading the US Congress as it investigated the spill.