The Latest: Texas lawyer says jury recognized weak case

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on verdicts in a trial where prosecutors alleged a Texas lawyer and six others submitted fake oil spill claims (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

Texas lawyer Mikal Watts says the government’s case against him “fell apart under its own weight of ridiculousness.”

Watts and four others were acquitted Thursday by a federal jury in Gulfport, Mississippi, of 66 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and identity theft relating to a falsified client list of claimants against BP following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Watts says he and those closest with him were not criminals but victims of a fraud perpetrated by those convicted — Gregory Warren and Thi Houng “Kristy” Le. Watts hired them to sign up plaintiffs.

Watts says the acquittal “helps a lot” with efforts to repair his reputation. He blames BP’s initial suit against him and a “reckless” Secret Service investigation for his troubles, saying he’ll return to work as a plaintiffs lawyer.

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3:45 p.m.

Jurors have convicted two people of making up fake clients to sue BP following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but the jury acquitted a Texas lawyer and four others.

Sheila Wilbanks, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis in southern Mississippi, said verdicts were delivered Thursday.

She says San Antonio lawyer Mikal Watts, his brother David Watts and Watts law firm employee Wynter Lee were acquitted of all charges. Also acquitted were Eloy Guerra and Thi Hoang “Abbie” Nguyen.

Wilbanks says jurors convicted Gregory Warren and Thi Houng “Kristy” Le on 66 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and identity theft.

Prosecutors said all seven created a list of bogus plaintiffs, using names and Social Security numbers without permission. Defendants said prosecutors never proved they acted with criminal intent.

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3:15 p.m.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office says a Texas lawyer and at least two other people have been acquitted of charges that they tried to commit fraud after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Jurors began delivering verdicts Thursday afternoon, according to Sheila Wilbanks, the spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis in southern Mississippi.

She says San Antonio lawyer Mikal Watts, his brother David Watts and Watts law firm employee Wynter Lee were acquitted of all charges.

Seven people faced 66 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and identity theft. Other verdicts weren’t yet available.

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.

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