BP prepares to plead guilty to manslaughter, other crimes in New Orleans

Houston ChronicleNovember 27, 2012 

BP is preparing to plead guilty to manslaughter and other crimes arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico rig explosion and oil spill but isn't expected to do that during an initial appearance Tuesday in New Orleans federal court.

Court appearances also are scheduled this week for three men who were working for the oil giant, and they already are mounting efforts to fight felony charges.

Once BP enters its planned guilty plea, a judge probably will order a pre-sentence report, in which court officials would recommend the appropriate punishment.

Assuming that determination meshes with BP's agreement with the Justice Department announced Nov. 15, which includes a multi-billion dollar fine, a federal judge would consider final approval of the plea deal.

Tuesday's hearing is simply a first appearance for BP.

On Monday, a federal judge rescheduled a closed-door meeting to discuss BP's agreement to plead guilty to criminal charges stemming from the deadly 2010 rig explosion and Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance had planned to meet Thursday in her chambers with prosecutors and BP

attorneys to discuss scheduling matters in the case, but she pushed the meeting to Dec. 11 due to a scheduling conflict.

BP declined to comment on its plans for the court appearances.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle could set trial dates at a hearing Wednesday for well-site leaders Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza and former executive David Rainey. Lemelle also may set bond conditions and other restrictions on the defendants, but the workers don't face arrest ahead of time.

Lemelle wrote in a recent filing that his spouse owns Halliburton stock and he has asked the parties to let him know by Dec. 7 whether he should recuse himself from the case. Halliburton was the cement contractor on BP's Macondo well, which blew out and triggered the spill.

The Justice Department continues to investigate, and other people and companies could be charged.

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