Spill defendant says prosecutors manufactured lawyer conflict
A former BP executive charged with lying to Congress about how much
oil was flowing following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill says the
government is trying to manufacture a conflict of interest to disqualify
one of his trial attorneys.
In court papers filed this
week, David Rainey's lawyers say a federal judge should throw out the
government's challenge to Brian Heberlig's representation of Rainey.
threatens Mr. Rainey's constitutional right to counsel of choice," the
attorneys wrote in the filing in federal court in New Orleans.
Federal prosecutors have
said they may call Heberlig as a witness to discuss statements Rainey
made during a private meeting with prosecutors before Rainey was
charged. Alleged statements during that 2011 meeting are the basis of
one of the two charges Rainey faces in the case, set for trial in
Prosecutors have said that
if Heberlig were called and gave testimony adverse to Rainey, it would
create a conflict in his representation of the former BP official.
They have asked the court to
order that the defense turn over certain information to help determine
whether Rainey can waive the conflict of interest or if further measures
are necessary, potentially including removing Heberlig from the case.
In their response filed
Tuesday, Rainey's attorneys said prosecutors did not object to
Heberlig's representation of Rainey for two years after the meeting in
question and that it is "rank speculation" to suggest Heberlig's
recollection of the meeting might be adverse.
Prosecutors allege that in a
meeting on April 6, 2011, Rainey falsely stated that he had calculated
BP's Macondo well was flowing at a rate of 5,000 barrels of oil per day
before seeing the government's similar estimate at the time.
The government now estimates the flow rate was 48,000 barrels of oil per day.
Cheryl Gerber, FRE
Rainey has pleaded not
guilty to charges of obstruction of a congressional investigation and
making a false statement to federal law enforcement officials.
A former BP engineer and two BP well-site leaders also face criminal charges in the Gulf oil spill case.