A Mississippi jury has cleared prominent Texas attorney and Corpus Christi native Mikal Watts of charges that he tried to commit fraud after the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill, reports Kristv.com.
Watts Watts, his brother David Watts and Watts law firm employee Wynter Lee were acquitted of all 66 felony counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and identity theft.
Prosecutors said they created a list of bogus plaintiffs, using names and Social Security numbers without permission. Defendants said prosecutors never proved they acted with criminal intent.
Jurors began delivering verdicts Thursday afternoon, according to Sheila Wilbanks, the spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis in southern Mississippi.
The Watts brothers and Lee, though, said they themselves were victims of fraud by the Mississippi group and lost $3 million on the BP litigation.
“The first words I told you was ‘I got ripped off,'” Mikal Watts, representing himself, told jurors.
He said other actions that federal prosecutors alleged were criminal were just routine lawyering, such as sending out multiple letters to clients the firm was struggling to contact, and submitting claims to BP even after contact attempts failed. Watts said those claims were submitted to meet a legal deadline, but said phantom clients would never get paid.
“The proof had to be submitted before people were going to be compensated and I knew that,” Watts said.