Friday, April 10, 2009

Felony charges for young activist who countered Bush admin's environmental assault

It is no accident that I post this on Good Friday.

"This auction was a fraud against the American people and a threat to our future."

Last week, University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher was charged with two felonies for disrupting a December 2008 auction of over 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and gas drilling. Activists had viewed the auction as an attempt by the outgoing Bush administration to deliver a last-minute gift to the oil and gas industry. In a creative act of civil disobedience, DeChristopher posed as a bidder and purchased 22,000 acres of land to save the property from drilling. He was arrested, and now faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of $750,000. The government is also demanding $81,000 in a civil fine, unrelated to the criminal charges.

The felony charges came as a discouraging surprise this month in the wake of the new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision to withdraw 77 parcels from the Bureau of Land Management's December Utah state oil and gas lease sale, saying they were too close to national parks and never should have gone up for sale.

However, the Associated Press, quotes Daniel Gunnell, managing partner of Twilight Resources LLC, one of the affected companies as saying: "We are angry. Tim DeChristopher is a guy who walked in the auction without a penny and cost our company $600,000."

DeChristopher isn't the first bidder at a federal oil-and-gas auction to fail to come up with the money, but he's the first to face criminal prosecution for it, said his lawyer Pat Shea, who was BLM director during the Clinton administration.

The public can leave messages of support and donations for DeChristopher's defense fund at his website: . The site also carries a comprehensive collection of relevant information: news articles, blog posts, video, and updates.

Tim's statement (4/4/2009):

On December 19th, 2008 I took what I considered to be ethical, necessary, and direct action to try to protect our planet, our democracy, and my fellow human beings. In that spirit of protection, I took nonviolent action which did not harm anyone nor destroy any property.

My actions stopped what I believed was an illegal and certainly unethical auction of red rock public lands in Southern Utah. This auction was a fraud and a threat against the American people and their future well-being. My motivation to act against this auction came solely from the exploitation of public lands, the lack of a transparent and participatory government, and the imminent danger of climate change.

I acted openly and honestly because I was then, and still am ready today, to accept and suffer the consequences of my actions. I had hoped the wheels of justice, particularly with a new Administration, would recognize the impetus of my actions and the merit of their results, by choosing not prosecute me, especially in light of the leases in question being voided by the new Administration. You can well imagine my shock and disappointment to find out that my hopes were misguided, and my future may well rest in the hands of a jury of my peers.

I have been gifted with a proven legal team, spearheaded by the efforts of Ron Yengich and Pat Shea. In a matter which will undoubtedly go to trial, they will have a chance to demonstrate the corruption of a system that "awards" oil and gas leases to the highest bidders, while the public and the environment are without any legitimate competing representation, thus consigning them to the catastrophic effects of climate change. This trial will be an opportunity to address our moral imperative to craft and defend a livable future for our children.

It is my deepest hope that my actions will be understood by others in the context in which they were forced to play out, and that those people who come to know what has befallen me here is the direct result of the corrosive manipulation that grips our system by the throat, choking off the oxygen of free and fair choice our democracy requires.

I am profoundly grateful for the the enormous support which I have already received, and I have every belief it will continue in the future. As my initial actions taught me, it is still possible to work for change, real change. I know I don't stand alone in that belief or in the fight that is gathering even as I type these words. And as my actions inspire others to work for change of all stripes, any consequences I have to face will be well worth it.

my post about the original action (3 months ago):


Spadoman said...

A quote from Round Circle, April 4, 2009

"......listening to Democracy Now today. The first 20 minutes was about a college guy in Utah who disrupted a sale of oil drilling lease bidding on BLM lands. I guess it’s against the law. Some act that was made into a law that says you can’t do what he did. So, he is getting 10 years in prison. People commit f**king murder and don’t get 10 f**king years!"

This is a ridiculous charge. The Democracy Now report mentioned in an interview that attorneys were hoping for a reprieve from the Obama administration and were surprised over the aggressive prosecution.

Trouble in the Obama administration paradise in my opinion. This example and a few others as well.

Dusty said...

He has some nads..gotta give him props! ;)

Randal Graves said...

All he's gotta do is say he's [insert Wall Street tycoon/power lobbyist] BFF and they'll probably PAY him some money.

Dada said...

Pardon my bad French, but "What the fucque?" DeCristopher is facing up to 10 years in prison and $831,000 fines because he did basically the same thing Salazar's BLM did subsequently -- protect public land by taking it off the auction block? How big a fine will our BLM head get? How many years hard time for Salazar?

Seems the legal-est thing to do is just give the fucqueing land away to industry like Bush would do. That's all perfectly ethical under "The Law" of the United States of America.

What a fucqued-up nation!

Border Explorer said...

Spadoman: Good on you. Right, while Obama is not McCain (thank goodness), he is not all I hope for either.

Dusty: LOL, I had to look that up. Learned a new Urban Vocabulary word there. Thanks.

Oh, Randal, what would I do without you? Thanks for that.

Dada, I think I'll use my only French word: "Merde!" Yeah, you did a fucqueing good job of pointing out the irony in this one. Only it's not ironic in the "ha ha" sense. Far from it. Thanks for chiming in on this!

susan said...

At this point I'm not the least bit impressed with how much different is this administration from the last one. With every single example I read I find myself ever more disappointed.

This is one very brave young man who I hope doesn't have to suffer the consequences noted here. Prison? 'So what are you in for?' Geez..

Carol said...

I am truly inspired by this young man's actions. I have thought about him a lot ever since he "bought" all of that land (we even sent him $$ to help pay for it). People like him help me to want to act more bravely and to get clearer on my convictions.

Fran said...

I think this young man did a brave & wise thing-- he took this sacred land off the Bush chopping(bidding block).
I could see them blacklisting him from being able to participate in gvmnt bids for 10 years.
But jail time?

Come on! They are trying to make an example of him to scare others from not taking such bold action.

That jail sentence is Bushesque & not acceptable.

He has become somewhat of an activist hero-- rather than stand outside the bidding office with a protest sign, he protested in this unique way.

Bravo to him & shame on the bush admin for trying to whore the land in this last gasp effort to eff up even more things before his exit.

Thanks for posting!

Border Explorer said...

Susan, oh my, you said it well.

Carol, good on you--sending him money. I keep thinking about it and haven't done it yet. Can you believe that fine???

Fran, I'm just honing in on your point about making an example of him--that must be the dynamic here. They sure don't want this to become standard practice. But I loved Dada's take on it (above): What punishment does Salazar merit? Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

enigma4ever said...

thank you for posting on this....really matters..and this young man needs people to blog his story....


Dave Dubya said...

Thanks for bringing the actions of a true American hero to light.

He is by every definition the kind of hero needed to save our country.