A federal jury in Salt Lake City Utah has convicted environmental activist Tim DeChristopher of two felony counts for disrupting an auction of over 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and gas drilling. He faces up to 10 years in prison. DeChristopher was charged in December 2008 with infiltrating a public auction and disrupting the Bush administration’s last-minute move to auction off oil and gas explorations rights on vast swaths of federal land.
DeChristopher was allowed in the auction on December 19th, 2008 and given bidder status simply by providing his drivers license and filling out a short form, he then bid to drive up the prices of some parcels and eventually bought 22,000 acres of land with the intention to save the property from drilling and to bring attention to the auction. During his trail BLM law enforcement testified that they knew he was not a normal bidder, and indicated that they were suspicious of him the whole time.
At that time of the auction the Obama administration had already indicated that the auction was illegitimate, and that if they had any opportunity they would like to stop the proceedings, but it was unclear if they would have the power to do so after the bidding was complete. DeChristopher’s actions were not what invalidated the auction, there were other complaints and lawsuits against the auction for disallowing public participation in the decision making process for the public land.
DeChristopher was charged by the Obama administration for his actions that took place during the Bush administration. DeChristopher says that after the auction he raised the money to pay for the parcels of land with the help of the former director of the BLM Patrick Shea, but the payment was rejected by the current BLM because DeChristopher was not bidding under normal circumstances. During the trail the jury was not allowed to know anything other than what took place on December 19th because the judge said that other information was irrelevant and would confuse the jury. DeChristopher said in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now: “I was able to explain to them [the jury] some of my views. I was able to talk about what my intent was there at the auction . . . But I wasn’t able to introduce anything that happened before December 19th, about the corruption within the Department of Interior in the Bush administration, or anything that happened after December 19th, either me raising the money or the auction being canceled. So, I was only able to throw my views out there as unsubstantiated claims of what I was thinking.”
Title: Environmentalist Tim DeChristopher Found Guilty of Sabotaging Oil and Gas Auction; Faces up to 10 Years in Jail
Author/Source: Democracy Now! March 4, 2011
Title: Activist Found Guilty of Making False Bids on Energy Leases
Author: Bibi van der Zee
Source: Guardian.CO.UK March 4, 2011
URL: HYPERLINK “http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/04/activist-guilty-energy” http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/04/activist-guilty-energy
Student Researcher: Amy Ortiz, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Professor Cynthia Boaz, Sonoma State University