- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The defense has begun in a federal criminal trial of a Texas lawyer and six employees accused of faking damage claims after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Mikal Watts and his co-defendants face 66 charges, down seven from earlier Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. in Gulfport, Mississippi, dismissed five counts and acquitted them on two others after hearing all prosecution witnesses.

The defendants are accused of inventing victims or using real names without permission to land Watts a spot on the lucrative BP litigation steering committee and inflate legal fees he might collect.

Guirola’s orders Wednesday did not give reasons.

The acquittal order filed online involved one count each of identity fraud and aggravated identity theft, with the same alleged victim.

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