David Rainey, a former executive at BP, was acquitted Friday afternoon of making false statements to federal agents after the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster in 2010. Rainey, who was a vice president for BP Exploration and Production Co. at the time, was charged with underestimating to the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency the amount of oil leaking into the ocean after the April 20, 2010, explosion of a BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig.
Rainey also was accused of obstructing a congressional investigation, but U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt dismissed the charge earlier this week. Rainey would have faced up to five years in prison had he been convicted of the lying count.
After a day of deliberation, the federal jury in New Orleans found Rainey not guilty, in a decision supported by the judge. "I agree with the verdict," said Engelhardt, reported the Associated Press.
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Prosecutors said Rainey manipulated his calculations to correspond to an early government estimate of 5,000 barrels per day in order to downplay the severity of the disaster. Official estimates of the leak now suggest that it flowed at a rate of more than 36,000 barrels per day.
On April 6, 2011, Rainey allegedly told investigators that he came up with the 5,000-barrel estimate before he knew about the government's similar rate. His attorney, Reid Weingarten, argued that the chaos after the explosion diverted resources and made it difficult to provide an accurate estimate, according to the Associated Press.
Rainey is among several BP employees who were charged in connection with the oil leak. The leaders of the BP well site Deepwater Horizon -- Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine -- pleaded not guilty to manslaughter for the 11 deaths that occurred from the explosion. Their trial is currently pending, the Associated Press reported.