A former manager at drilling-rig operator Helmerich & Payne Inc. (HP) pleaded not guilty to a charge of lying to a federal agent reviewing blowout-prevention testing and records of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
Federal prosecutors said Donald Hudson lied to an investigator with the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Interior Department when he denied directing others to falsify blowout-prevention testing records.
“Not guilty,” Hudson said at his arraignment in federal court in New Orleans today.
Magistrate Judge Louis Moore Jr. accepted the plea and set a trial date for April 30. Moore said Hudson didn’t have to be held in custody because he had no prior criminal history.
“You’re free to go,” Moore told the defendant.
The U.S. said Hudson was employed by Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Helmerich & Payne as a drilling-rig manager in May 2010, a time of heightened vigilance in the gulf after the blast that killed 11 crew members aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig operated by BP Plc (BP/), an unrelated incident that triggered the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
In May 2011, Helmerich & Payne said in a regulatory filing that it had suspended operations on an offshore rig after an employee reported possible “testing irregularities.” The company told stockholders that operations on the rig were “promptly suspended,” federal authorities alerted and “certain employees” fired for violating company policies and procedures.
The company said it was cooperating with a grand jury investigation of the matter.
The case is U.S. v. Hudson, 12-cr-115, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
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