MISSISSIPPI – On Aug. 18 a federal jury unanimously acquitted Texas attorney Mikal Watts and two co-defendants on all counts in a criminal case that accused them of falsifying claims against BP following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Watts’ brother, David Watts and Wynter Lee were also on trial.
Last September, Watts was indicted on allegations that he committed fraud when purportedly signed up more than 40,000 coastal clients after the spill – a showy number that helped put him at the head of the plaintiffs’ steering committee.
The following month, the indictment was unsealed, revealing Watts and his co-defendants allegedly fabricated thousands of clients, including the representation of a dog by the name of Lucy Lu.
Prior to the indictment, Watts’ firm had reached a $2.3 billion settlement with BP on behalf of the 41,000 seafood workers he purportedly represented.
Watts, a well-known plaintiff’s attorney in San Antonio, fired his lawyer at the start of the trial and represented himself.
According to Texas Lawyer, Watts argued to jurors that he was "ripped off" by other defendants in the case whom his firm had paid handsomely to gather client names and information, but spent millions on unauthorized purchases instead.
"Gentlemen clubs, hotels, wine, cigars," Watts is quoted as saying in the article. "It makes me so angry, I want to throw up. I got ripped off. The evidence is clear."
The article also states Watts argued that the government did not prove its case that he knowingly submitted the false names or intended to recover for the non-existent litigants.
The jury found several of the defendants Watts hired in Mississippi to gather clients guilty of the fraud allegations, according to the article.