BP Managers May Face Manslaughter Charges

Investigation focusing on decisions they made leading up to explosion
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2011 7:52 AM CDT
This April 21, 2010 file photo shows the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burning after an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

(Newser) – Manslaughter charges may be coming down the pike for a handful of BP managers. Bloomberg spoke with three insiders who say federal prosecutors are considering whether to pursue the charges based on decisions made in the lead-up to the oil rig explosion that killed 11. Charging individuals would be an unusual move, says one law professor, who adds that doing so could actually have a significant effect. "They typically don’t prosecute employees of large corporations. You’ve got to prosecute the individuals in order to maximize, and not lose, the deterrent effect."

But a former Justice Department official thinks the companies, not the managers, will be slapped with the charges: "You have relatively low-level people in these companies responsible for making bad decisions." Bloomberg adds that prosecutors are considering charges of involuntary manslaughter or seaman's manslaughter; the latter could come with a 10-year prison sentence. The Justice Department opened its criminal case in June.

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