Eco-activist who blocked BLM auction in Utah is convicted
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A federal jury in Salt Lake City on Thursday convicted environmental activist Tim DeChristopher of two felony counts for using bogus bids to block the auction of 22,000 of federal land near national parks in southern Utah.
The jury deliberated for five hours before reaching its verdict. DeChristopher, 29, had infiltrated the Bureau of Land Management's auction in December 2008 as a protest against the move in the waning days of the Bush administration to open up the land to oil and gas exploration. He bid nearly $1.8 million for the 13 parcels with no ability to pay for them.
Weeks later a federal judge blocked the sale and the new Obama administration pulled the parcels from the auction block, contending their sale was improper. But the U.S. attorney's office still filed charges against DeChristopher, contending he took civil disobedience a step too far. He could face up to 10 years in prison when he is later sentenced.
Thursday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen praised the verdict in a statement. "We recognize that individuals have deeply held opinions when it comes to the use and management of our public lands," she said. "As citizens of this country, we are free to hold and express these differing views. However, there are ways to express these opinions and advocate for change without violating the law, disrupting open public processes, and causing financial harm to the government and other individuals."
Supporters kept a steady vigil outside the federal courthouse during the three-day trial. DeChristopher was unrepentant when he emerged after the verdict.
Sources: Los Angeles Times
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