[Ppnews] Environmentalist Tim DeChristopher Found Guilty of Sabotaging Oil and Gas Auction

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 4 12:47:01 EST 2011



Environmentalist Tim DeChristopher Found Guilty 
of Sabotaging Oil and Gas Auction; Faces up to 10 Years in Jail



<http://www.democracynow.org/>March 04, 2011

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/4/environmentalist_tim_dechristopher_found_guilty_of

A federal jury in Salt Lake City has convicted 
environmental activist Tim DeChristopher of two 
felony counts for disrupting the auction of more 
than 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and 
gas drilling. 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 
exploitation rights on vast swaths of federal 
land. A student at the time, DeChristopher posed 
as a bidder and bought 22,000 acres of land with 
no intent to pay in an attempt to save the 
property from drilling. He faces up to ten years 
in prison. DeChristopher joins us today to talk about the verdict.

JUAN GONZALEZ: A federal jury in Salt Lake City 
has convicted environmental activist Tim 
DeChristopher of two felony counts for disrupting 
the auction of over 100,000 acres of federal land 
for oil and gas drilling. 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 exploration rights on vast swaths of 
federal land. A student at the time, 
DeChristopher posed as a bidder and bought 22,000 
acres of land with no intention to pay in an 
attempt to save the property from drilling. He faces up to ten years in prison.

AMY GOODMAN: The jury deliberated for nearly five 
hours yesterday before reaching its decision. 
After the verdict, DeChristopher emerged from the 
courthouse and addressed his supporters.

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Everything that went on inside 
that building tried to convince me that I was 
alone and I was weak. They tried to convince me 
that I was like a little finger out there on my 
own that can easily be broken. And all of you out 
here were the reminder for all of us that I 
wasn’t just a finger all alone in there, but that 
I was connected to a hand with many fingers that 
could unite as one fist and that that fist could 
not be broken by the power that they have in there.

That fist is not a symbol of violence. That fist 
is a symbol that we will not be misled into 
thinking we are alone. We will not be lied to and 
told we are weak. We will not be divided, and we 
will not back down. That fist is a symbol that we 
are connected and that we are powerful. It’s a 
symbol that we hold true to our vision of a 
healthy and just world, and we are building the 
self-empowering movement to make it happen. All 
those authorities in there wanted me to think 
like a thinker. But our children are calling to us to think like a fist.

And we know that now I’ll have to go to prison. 
We know that now that’s the reality. But that’s 
just a job that I have to do. That’s the role 
that I face. And many before me have gone to jail 
for justice. And if we’re going to achieve our 
vision, many after me will have to join me, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Tim DeChristopher speaking outside 
the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City 
yesterday. He now joins us live from Salt Lake City.

Tim, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain first 
exactly what you did and when you did it. Talk 
about leaving your classroom after you took a 
graduate test in December. What year was it?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: It was December 19th, 2008. 
And as you said, I finished up my final exam that 
morning and went to the BLM oil and gas auction 
that was being held in downtown Salt Lake, with 
the intent to draw enough attention to what was 
going on there that the government could actually 
stop and rethink their actions, which at that 
point the Obama administration had already 
indicated that they knew it was illegitimate and 
that if they had any opportunity, they would like 
to stop what was happening, but it was unclear 
that they would actually have that power if the auction was completed.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And how did you actually­

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: So I went there and was just 
looking for any opportunity to do that. And when 
I walked in, I was asked if I wanted to be a 
bidder. And so, I said yes. And once I got inside 
then, I saw the opportunity to really stand in 
the way of what was going on and just couldn’t 
pass up that opportunity, so I started bidding 
and eventually started winning parcels and 
winning every parcel until they stopped the auction and took me out.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, how did they­so, all they did 
was ask you if you wanted to be a bidder? You 
didn’t have to prequalify or deposit a check or 
in some way show some bonding just to be able to bid on the land?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: No, I just had to show a 
driver’s license and fill out a short form with 
my name and address and that sort of thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you expect you would be able to do this?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: No. No, I didn’t expect that 
at all. You know, I expected to go in there and 
make a speech or something like that. And other 
folks that were in the protest outside told me 
that I would just get dragged out by security at 
the door. And I said, "Well, then let’s get 
dragged out by security at the door." And no one 
would go in with me, so I went in, and rather 
than drag me out, they asked me if I wanted to be a bidder.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, then talk about what you proceeded to do, Tim.

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, seeing the opportunity 
inside to really stand in the way of what was 
going on, I couldn’t turn my back on that 
opportunity, and so first started bidding to 
drive up the prices, and did that for quite 
awhile. Most of the parcels were going for $10 or 
$12 an acre, and so I was driving those prices 
up, and then, finally, decided that I had to 
actually win those parcels and started doing that 
and won about 14 parcels before they stopped the 
auction and then took me into custody.

JUAN GONZALEZ: So, in other words, at some point 
they recognized that you were not a genuine bidder? How did that happen?

AMY GOODMAN: How did they recognize that you were not an oil or gas company?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, there was actually a lot 
of testimony from the BLM law enforcement agents 
that were there at the auction. During the trial, 
he testified quite a bit to the fact that they 
knew from the moment that I walked in that I 
wasn’t a normal oil and gas bidder. They didn’t 
recognize me from these auctions that were held 
on a regular basis. And they noticed that I was 
younger, that I was dressed different, that I 
didn’t act like the others. And so, they 
indicated that they were suspicious the whole 
time, and they just needed to wait until it was 
absolutely clear, that there was no doubt in 
their mind, that I was not an oil and gas company representative.

AMY GOODMAN: So, once you did this and you bought 
this land, picking up paddle number 70, did you plan to pay for it?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, I didn’t know what the 
options were at the time. That was still somewhat 
unclear. I talked to some folks right afterwards 
that afternoon who offered to help with 
fundraising. And it wasn’t until the next day 
that former director of the BLM, Patrick Shea, 
who directed the agency under the Clinton 
administration, contacted me and offered to 
represent me. And then he informed me that there 
were a lot of different ways that these things 
could play out and a lot of different options and 
that raising the money was still a legitimate 
possibility. And so, we raised the money very 
quickly, actually, surprisingly quickly, and 
offered the initial payment to the BLM for the 
parcels that I had won. But they rejected that 
payment and said that I wasn’t bidding under 
normal circumstances, so they couldn’t accept 
that payment anyway. But that’s all stuff that 
the jury was not allowed to know. We weren’t 
allowed to tell the jury that I offered the 
payment to the BLM. All we were allowed to talk 
about in the trial was what happened on December 19th and nothing else.

AMY GOODMAN: And this ultimately invalidated the 
auction­is that right?­your participation. So 
explain what happened, from the Bush 
administration into the Obama administration.

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, it wasn’t actually my 
participation that invalidated the auction. It 
was my participation that drew a lot of attention 
to what was going on in the auction. But there 
were other complaints against the auction and 
lawsuits against the auction, which once the new 
administration came in, they invalidated almost 
the entire thing and admitted that they weren’t 
following their own rules in the first place. And 
it wasn’t because of my participation, but 
because of the way that they had operated and 
locked the public out of the decision-making 
process for public land, that the auction was 
invalidated. But again, that’s something that the 
jury was not allowed to know. The verdict in this 
case was a pretty much foregone conclusion, 
because we weren’t allowed to tell the jury any of that stuff.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And on what basis did the judge 
exclude this other important information, like, 
for instance, the fact that you were raising the 
money to actually pay for what you had bid for?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: The judge said that it was 
irrelevant and that it would confuse the jury, so 
they shouldn’t be allowed to know it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what was the picture that the jury­

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: That was a frequent refrain that we heard during this trial.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Tim DeChristopher, what was the 
picture that the jury got? What did they 
understand with what was limited, what they weren’t able to know?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: I was able to explain to them 
some of my views. I was able to talk about what 
my intent was there at the auction. I was limited 
to pretty brief comments about that, but I was 
able to explain to them why I was there, what I 
was thinking. But I wasn’t able to introduce any 
evidence that supported what I was thinking. I 
wasn’t able to introduce anything that happened 
before December 19th, about the corruption within 
the Department of the 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.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the reason you did what you did, Tim?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, I saw this auction as, 
first off, a fraud against the American people, 
that the government wasn’t following their own 
rules and was locking the public out of the 
decision-making process for public property. I 
also saw it as a real threat to my future, 
because of the impact on climate change that this 
kind of "drill now, think later" mentality was 
having, and an attack on our public lands, on our 
natural heritage, in pretty pristine and irreplaceable areas in southern Utah.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And is it your intention to appeal the verdict in any way?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: And so, it my intent was to stand in the way of that.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Is it your intention to appeal the verdict in any way?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: I have no idea. We haven’t 
really talked about that with my legal team. 
That’s something that will happen after sentencing.

AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to read a part of a 
letter that was signed by Naomi Klein, Bill 
McKibben and Terry Tempest Williams, and it says, 
"When Tim disrupted the auction, he did so in the 
fine tradition of non-violent civil disobedience 
that changed so many unjust laws in [this] 
country’s past. Tim’s [upcoming] trial is an 
occasion to raise the alarm once more about the 
peril our planet faces. The situation is still 
fluid"­and it goes on, because this was written 
before the trial date. But it was under the Bush 
administration that you did this. Under the Obama 
administration, then-Interior Secretary, the 
former senator from Colorado, Ken Salazar, said 
these lands­what statement did he make? He said these lands would not be sold?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Initially they just stopped 
the auction and said that they were going to take 
a second look at everything that was going on. 
And once they did, they divided the parcels into 
three categories: those that should never be sold 
or never be drilled for oil; those that are 
appropriate for drilling at a future date, that 
could­that are eligible for being re-auctioned 
because they’re surrounded by existing oilfields; 
and those that need more study, just because 
nobody had ever really looked at where they were 
or what kind of qualities those lands really had.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And how big is the amount of land 
that they initially agreed to put up for sale?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: I believe the initial 
agreement was somewhere around 300,000 acres, but 
a lot of that was taken off because of the 
initial wave of protests from the National Park Service and others.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, under the Obama 
administration, it was then that you were 
charged, is that right, Tim DeChristopher?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Right. It was almost two 
months after the auction had been invalidated 
that the Obama Justice Department pressed those charges against me.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, in that same letter by 
Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben and Terry Tempest 
Williams, they say, "The government calls that 
'violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas 
Leasing Reform Act' and thinks he should spend 
ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a 
noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of 
all of us and of the future." Tim DeChristopher, do you have any regrets?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: No, I have no regrets at all, 
I mean, especially seeing the show of support 
outside of the courthouse this week. There were 
people were out there all day long, all week, and 
they were singing. You know, they were showing 
their joy and resolve in the face of 
intimidation. And I think that’s the really 
important thing that came out of this, is that 
people showed that regardless of what happens to 
me, they’re not going to be intimidated into 
being obedient to an unjust status quo.

AMY GOODMAN: Tim DeChristopher, we thank you very 
much for being with us. When is the sentencing?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: The sentencing is June 23rd.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks for joining us. Tim 
DeChristopher, activist, founder of the 
environmental group Peaceful Uprising, he was 
convicted yesterday on two felony counts for 
disrupting an auction of public land in December 
2008. He faces up to 10 years in prison.




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