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Utah activist Tim DeChristopher drops appeals

Published September 29, 2012 6:20 pm

Environment • Tim DeChristopher looking ahead to transfer to SLC halfway house Oct 24.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As he readies himself for transfer to a halfway house in Salt Lake City, Tim DeChristopher, the environmental activist convicted of bogus bidding on federal oil and gas leases, announced Friday he won't spend any more time or energy appealing through the federal courts.

"Throughout every stage of this legal process, it has been a predetermined conclusion that I should be punished for standing up to the collusion between government and corporations," DeChristopher said in a statement provided by defense attorney Pat Shea.

The former University of Utah economics major, 30, has spent 14 months in federal prisons in California and Colorado for the Dec. 19, 2008, bids and ensuing conviction for making false statements and interfering with a federal auction.

He is scheduled to be transferred to a halfway house in Salt Lake City on Oct. 24 where he will be allowed work-release for a job waiting for him with the Unitarian Church, working on social justice issues, Shea said.

He said DeChristopher is seriously considering a ministry in the Unitarian Church after completing his sentence on April 26. DeChristopher will be on parole for three years, post-sentence.

Earlier this month, the environmental activist lost an appeal before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver by a split 2-1 ruling. He will not appeal further, he said, because the legal system has circumvented his defense.

The leases that DeChristopher bid on at the end of George W. Bush's second term were later revoked by the Obama administration, citing a lack of adequate environmental review by the Bureau of Land Management.

Defense attorney Ron Yengich argued before the appeals court panel that trial Judge Dee Benson did not allow DeChristopher to tell jurors that he made the false bids to stop an illegal proceeding.

In his statement, the activist said the jury was kept from the facts. "After telling jurors that it was not their job to think about what is right or wrong, Judge Benson blocked evidence of government wrongdoing on the grounds that it would 'confuse the jury,' " DeChristopher said. "Any potential discussion of ethics, justice or the role of citizens has been banished from the court."

But in its Sept. 14 ruling, the Court of Appeals stated that the BLM's activities did not render DeChristopher's actions warranted. The three-judge panel ruled the activist intentionally broke the law by running up prices for the leases. He bid some $1.8 million for 14 drill sites, knowing he could not pay for them.

"Whether the BLM complied with all applicable environmental regulations in conducting the auction has nothing to do with whether the defendant organized a scheme, arrangement or plan to circumvent or defeat the law," the ruling stated.

Nonetheless, DeChristopher said that both the trial court and the appeals court failed to find justice. The "injustice on display" in this case is "truly systemic," he said of what he called a judicial system built on technicalities rather than justice and protects the powerful at the expense of everyday citizens.

csmart@sltrib.com