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Delay in DeChristopher sentencing won't halt protests

Published June 16, 2011 7:53 pm

Courts • Supporters of Tim DeChristopher plan to demonstrate next week in SLC.
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Climate activist and convicted monkey-wrencher Tim DeChristopher won't be sentenced next week as planned, but that won't stop his supporters from demonstrating outside Salt Lake City's federal courthouse.

The court and prosecutors confirmed a delay in DeChristopher's penalty for fraudulently bidding on federal oil and gas leases, originally scheduled to be imposed June 23. They haven't said why, though, leaving environmentalists who had publicly scheduled protests to speculate it's to steal their thunder.

"It's just another attempt to [stifle] actions," said Salt Lake City resident Ashley Anderson, co-founder of the DeChristopher-affiliated group Peaceful Uprising. "The only thing they can do is change dates around and try to throw us off so that what we do doesn't look as powerful."

U.S. District Judge Dee Benson has not yet released a new date for sentencing. DeChristopher's associates say they expect the new date will be in late July.

A Salt Lake City jury convicted DeChristopher in March. He faces up to 10 years in prison, though federal prosecutors have said they won't seek the maximum.

The activist, now 29, attended a Salt Lake City lease sale in December 2008 to protest the last of the Bush administration's offerings to industry, which included lands around eastern Utah's national parks. DeChristopher ended up bidding on the parcels, driving up the prices on some and ultimately winning more than a dozen others with a $1.8 million tab.

Peaceful Uprising planned demonstrations outside the U.S. District Court during the sentencing and called on allies nationwide to do the same outside their courthouses.

The group still plans to demonstrate June 23 in Exchange Place Plaza, across Main Street from the Salt Lake City court, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. That event will include workshops on successful social movements and civil disobedience in U.S. history, Anderson said.

On June 24, he said, the activists will conduct a "boot camp" and barbecue from 10 a.m. until dusk in the northeast corner of Liberty Park. Then they will choose businesses around Salt Lake City that they consider either climate-change offenders or models of progress, singling them out for attention the following day, June 25.

bloomis@sltrib.com