Tim DeChristopher the famous (or infamous) "Bidder Number 70" who's courageous actions disrupted a sloppy, and rushed oil and gas lease, set up by the Bush Administration's Bureau of Land Management, was sentenced by Federal Judge [Dee] Benson to 2 years in Federal Prison and a $10,000 fine today. This auction would have ed leased off some of the nation's scenic crown jewels for oil and gas drilling as a favor for Bush and Cheney's Oil Industry cronies.
DeChristopher gets 2 years, $10K fine for botching federal auction
DeChristopher, the 29-year-old climate activist turned environmental folk hero, was sentenced Tuesday to spend two years in prison. He also will face a $10,000 fine.
The sentence — handed down as a somber crowd of supporters gathered outside the courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City — follows DeChristopher’s high-profile spoiling of a federal auction in late 2008.
The Bush Bureau of Land Management leases would have included parcels adjacent to Arches National Park and would have even leased portions to the world famous Slick Rock Mountain Bike Trail. Oil company profits were the only metric the Bush B.L.M. gave any consideration to.
Arches National Park
The Slick Rock mountain bike trail.
I have ridden this trail and one on the far side of the side canyon on the right of the Colorado River in the photo. There are numerous lease parcels running up both sides of the Colorado River in the streach pictured here.
Prosecutors say climate activist needs harsh penalty
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Huber argued in a motion filed Tuesday that DeChristopher isn’t sorry for hijacking the auction and deserves a harsh sentence. He cited a spate of media interviews DeChristopher gave after his conviction, including a speech on the courthouse steps in which DeChristopher told a throng of reporters that “if we are to achieve our vision, many after me will have to join me [in prison] as well.”
“Mr. DeChristopher has boastfully declared that he has no regrets for what he did, would do it again ‘in a heartbeat’ and encouraged others to follow his lead,” Huber wrote.
Huber noted DeChristopher’s fraudulent bidding drove up the price of parcels by $300,000 at the auction, causing one “legitimate bidder” to lose more than $600,000.
Here is Tim DeChristopher speaking on Civil Disobedience and his upcoming sentencing, at Netroots Nation 20011 last month in Minneapolis during the Dirty Energy: The Fight Against Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Nuclear session. Here Tim is responding to a question from fellow panelist Josh Nelson about Civil Disobedience.
This comes from an MSNBC piece this morning shows Tim DeChristopher remains committed to his principals.
10 years in prison for activist who bid on oil leases?
"We've passed the point where intimidation is going to work to stop people from fighting for their own future," he told supporters back in March. "Regardless of what they do to any one of us, they are not going to break the movement and they are not going to convince people to back down."
This comes from an OpEd in the Los Angles Tines by Peter Yarrow from the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary.
Tim DeChristopher's courageous bid to save our world
In March, Tim DeChristopher was convicted of two felony counts for a nonviolent act of civil disobedience. Acting out of his deepest convictions and his abiding concern for the survival of humankind, Tim bid on oil and gas leases on federal land that he didn't have the means to pay for. On Tuesday, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison for his actions.
In their sentencing memo, the government's attorneys wrote: "A significant prison term will promote respect for the law.... To be sure, a federal prison term here will deter others from entering a path of criminal behavior." The same might have been said of King, had our government been so odiously disrespectful of his moral courage at the time.
The prosecution has maintained that Tim's actions cost the Bureau of Land Management — and hence taxpayers — hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, after the auction was concluded, an environmental group got an injunction against many of the leases on the grounds that the environmental consequences of drilling hadn't been adequately considered. Subsequently, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pulled back the majority of them for further review. Eleven of the 14 auction parcels on which Tim made the highest bid later were pulled back by the government for reanalysis, so his action cost the government nothing on those.
Bill McKibben wrote in an Op Ed in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Tim DeChristopher and the feds
For one thing, this is the same federal government that, faced with the greatest financial fraud in the history of the world, one that nearly sank the whole world’s economy, couldn’t find a single banker to bring to justice. This is the kind of prosecutorial discretion that is supposed to make us feel better about Washington’s power? It’s the very definition of overreach.
I predict that that overreach will backfire if the prosecution and judge actually deliver a harsh verdict. In the weeks before the sentencing, for instance, more than a thousand people have signed up at tarsandsaction.org to risk arrest in Washington D.C. next month. This protest of the administration’s plans to approve a new pipeline from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico looks like it will be the largest civil disobedience in the history of the climate change movement. It will draw energy from DeChristopher’s sentencing, in the same way that punitive sentences always inspire others to take up the banner.
That’s especially true in a year when we’ve come to understand just how right DeChristopher was. The last year was the warmest in human history. Just last week new studies showed that with that heat came the most extreme weather ever measured, a spate of floods and droughts biblical in scope and power. DeChristopher is proving prophetic, and sticking prophets in jail does not rob them of their power. Just the opposite.
When the Obama DOJ virtually ignores ultra-greedy Investment Bankers who wrecked the Americsan economy doing incalculable damage, yet they are eager to go after an environmental activist like Tim DeChristopher Americans faith in our rule of law is being undermined by the blatant double standard.
Should Tim DeChristopher get a harsh sentence on Tuesday?
Audrey Graham, a Grand County Council member, says many residents in the Moab area strongly support DeChristopher’s act of "civil disobedience" and hope for a light sentence.
"I am relieved that he did take some action because things did change," says Graham, noting her mother was arrested five times during protests near the Nevada nuclear test site. "When I found out as a public official where the parcels were located, I was shocked. I felt blindsided."
Of course not all local officials in Utah share Audrey Graham's view of DeChristopher's civil disobedience.
Mike McKee, a Uintah County commissioner who is deeply involved in Utah’s public-land struggles, sees it differently. He says the rule of law needs to apply and that a strong message needs to be sent to prevent copycat crimes.
"Frankly, leases he bid on have not been reinstated," says McKee, whose county produces more gas than any other in Utah. "It really did muck up the process. How do they go about trying to make that right? It isn’t just some little inconsequential item."
Mucking up the oil companies' griftopia is shocking to good old boys like McKee. But it turns out to be a fairly regular occurrence according to a 2009 B.L.M. study.
BLM taking action to avoid more bid 'spoilers'
Released Friday, the report said "bid walkers" or individuals or companies who default on winning bids account for less than 1 percent of monetary losses to the program and in the past five years, there have only been 35 who defaulted on 152 of the approximately 14,000 parcels sold.
I'm curious how many of those 35 "bid walkers" the D.O.J. went after with prison time?
This Grist video is the first of three done yesterday
Also see kgosztola's diary with a video:
Here is my diary from 2009 Salt Lake Tribune blasts Sen. Bennett for blocking Obama appointees over 77 oil leases Fellow Kossack Tim DeChristopher joins in the comments.
Tim DeChristopher and I at Netroots Nation 2011.
Tim should be an inspiration to us all.
UPDATE: 26 Protesters were arrested in Salt Lake City following Tim DeChristopher's sentence being handed down.
DeChristopher sentenced to prison, 26 protesters arrested
Police arrested 26 people during a demonstration so disruptive that it blocked traffic along Main Street between 300 South and 500 South and along 400 South between West Temple and State Street.
One protester was carried off by police. Another blew a kiss. And another marched away singing with her wrists bound. The arrests were met largely with applause.
Police charged protesters with three counts of unlawful assembly, failure to disperse and blocking a roadway.
This is unheard of behavior for Salt Lake City.