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Judge grants feds more time to decide if they'll retry ex-BP engineer in Gulf oil spill

NEW ORLEANS - Federal prosecutors have been granted additional time to decide whether they should appeal an order throwing out the conviction of a former BP engineer accused of deleting texts about the amount of oil flowing from a blown-out well during the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval granted the prosecutors' motion Thursday.

Duval ruled last week that Kurt Mix was entitled to a new trial on an obstruction-of-justice charge because of juror misconduct in his 2013 trial.

Prosecutors had said that deciding whether to appeal will take time and require involvement of top Justice Department officials. They asked for an exclusion from the federal Speedy Trial Act. It calls for a trial within 70 days of a new one being ordered.

Duval didn't specify how much additional time he has authorized.

Mix's attorneys did not object to the prosecutors' request.

Prosecutors accused Mix of deleting text messages to other BP workers dealing with the amount of oil flowing from BP's Macondo well after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 people.

Mix's attorneys had argued there was ample evidence that Mix shared information about the flow rate with federal officials who were conducting an investigation. They also said prosecutors failed to prove that Mix knew the information he deleted would be pertinent to a grand jury investigation — an investigation they said he did not know about and that had not yet even begun.

Duval ruled that a jury forewoman tainted the deliberations at the December trial by mentioning to a deadlocked jury that she had heard something outside the trial that affirmed her view that Mix was guilty.

While granting the government time to decide on an appeal, Duval also is setting the stage for a new trial if circumstances warrant. He set a conference of lawyers for Aug. 5 and a tentative trial date for Aug. 18.

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