One year probation for Halliburton boss who deleted BP spill documents

Judge grants lenient sentence; former manager could have spent a year in jail for role in destroying BP files

Anthony Badalamenti leaves Federal Court in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.

A former Halliburton manager apologized to his family and friends Tuesday before a federal judge sentenced him to one year of probation for destroying evidence in the aftermath of BP's massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anthony Badalamenti, 62, of Katy, Texas, also has to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine. It was one of the more lenient options for sentencing, and Judge Jay Zainey called Badalamenti an "honorable man" who had "learned from this mistake."

Badalamenti, who was charged in September 2013, is not the only oil company employee in legal trouble over the massive oil spill, which still haunts the region's waters years later with washed-up tar balls and deformed wildlife. 

He expressed remorse for causing "undue stress" on his relatives and friends.

"I am truly sorry for what I did," he said.

Badalamenti had faced a maximum of one year in prison at his sentencing by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey. Badalamenti pleaded guilty in October to one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence.

Badalamenti was the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., BP's cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Prosecutors said he instructed two Halliburton employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP's blown-out Macondo well.

The judge said that the sentence of probation is "very reasonable in this case."

"I still feel that you're a very honorable man," he told Badalamenti. "I have no doubt that you've learned from this mistake."

Tai Park, one of Badalamenti's lawyers, said his client had believed that the deleted data could be recreated and could therefore be discarded.

"It did not involve any criminal intent. It did not involve any loss, but it did involve a misjudgment," Park told Zainey.

Park said "criminal intent" is not an element of the misdemeanor charge to which his client pleaded guilty.

"He really is a man who has shown a lifetime of integrity," Park said.

Halliburton cut its own deal with the Justice Department and pleaded guilty in September to a misdemeanor charge related to Badalamenti's conduct. The company agreed to pay a $200,000 fine. It also made a $55 million voluntary contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Sentencing guidelines had called for Badalamenti to receive a penalty ranging from probation to six months in prison. Zainey, however, was not bound by those guidelines.

Prosecutors said Badalamenti instructed two Halliburton employees to delete data from separate runs of computer simulations on centralizers, which are used to keep the casing centered in the wellbore. 

The data could have supported BP's decision to use six centralizers instead of 21 on the Macondo project, but prosecutors said the number of centralizers had little effect on the outcome of the simulations.

Halliburton notified the Justice Department about the deletion of the data, which could not be recovered.

Four current or former BP employees have also been charged in federal court with spill-related crimes.

On Dec. 18, a jury convicted former BP drilling engineer Kurt Mix of trying to obstruct a federal probe of the spill. Prosecutors said Mix was trying to destroy evidence when he deleted a string of text messages to and from a BP supervisor.

Mix faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing is set for March 26.

BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges stemming from the deaths of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon.

Prosecutors claim Kaluza and Vidrine botched a key safety test and disregarded abnormally high pressure readings that were glaring signs of trouble before the April 2010 blowout of BP's Macondo well triggered a deadly explosion.

Former BP executive David Rainey was charged with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was gushing from BP's well before the company sealed it.

The Associated Press

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