5th Circuit Slows Down BP Plea, Says More Victims’ Rights Info Needed
Posted Feb 29, 2008 12:57 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Weighing in on a contested plea bargain in a criminal case over a deadly 2005 explosion at a Texas City refinery owned by petroleum giant BP, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has stopped the clock for now.
Ruling on victims' claims that they are entitled to more of a say in the plea deal under the 2004 Crime Victims Rights Act, the appeals court said the district court should "take no further action" on the plea deal until prosecutors have a chance to respond to the victims' arguments, reports the Houston Chronicle.
The deal calls for the London-based company to pay a $50 million fine after its Feb. 4 guilty plea to a felony environmental crime, but has not yet been finalized. Victims reportedly say the fine should be six times that amount, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post.
BP has also paid $1 billion to improve conditions at the refinery, has settled most victim claims for $1.6 billion and was fined $21 million by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The 2005 explosion killed 15 people and injured 170.
Houston Chronicle: "BP blast victims lose ruling on plea bargain"
Associated Press: "BP: Plea Deal Will Spare Court Battle"
Houston Chronicle: "BP says lawsuit is going too far"