By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
2014-02-27 06:01 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A federal judge has indefinitely delayed the trial of a former BP executive accused of lying to Congress in 2010 about the amount of oil that was spewing from the company's blown-out well.
Trial had been scheduled March 10 for David Rainey, who was BP's vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico when the well blew wild in April 2010, causing 200 million gallons of oil to spill over a couple months.
Rainey was charged with obstructing Congress and lying to law enforcement agents by failing to disclose internal information from BP PLC indicating that the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico could be far higher than the estimates being made publicly.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Englehardt threw out the obstruction-of-Congress charge, though prosecutors appealed and also brought a new indictment on the same charge.
In an order Wednesday, Engelhardt said prosecutors and Rainey's lawyers agreed to set a new date after the appeal is decided.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal has tentatively scheduled arguments the week of April 28.
The obstruction charge involves Rainey's testimony at a subcommittee briefing on May 4, 2010, and his replies that month to written questions.
Englehardt ruled that it wasn't clear that the obstruction law applies to subcommittees, and that the indictment failed to allege that Rainey knew of the pending congressional investigation he was charged with obstructing.
An indictment alleges that the House Energy and Commerce Committee was investigating the blowout through its subcommittee on energy and environment, and that Rainey knew it was doing so.