Conviction of Utah environmental activist upheld

Associated Press Modified: September 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm •  Published: September 14, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An environmental activist knowingly broke the law when he bid on parcels of land near Utah's national parks during an oil and gas lease auction, later making public statements that it was an act of civil disobedience and he was prepared to go to prison, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in affirming the man's conviction.

Tim DeChristopher had sought relief from the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, claiming his conviction should be overturned because his actions were a form of civil disobedience intended to protect the environment from an auction he believed to be illegal, among other assertions.

Federal prosecutors said only one thing mattered in the case — DeChristopher knowingly broke the law by fraudulently participating in the 2008 auction.

The appeals court agreed, noting evidence presented at trial last year included DeChristopher's own statements that he was "there to stop that auction."

DeChristopher had claimed he didn't initially intend to bid on the parcels when he ended up winning 14 drilling sites for nearly $1.8 million.

No matter, the appeals court found.

The "very act of filling out the bidder registration form and acquiring a bidder's paddle was consistent with an intent to bid in the auction," the three-judge panel wrote.

They also found that the lower court didn't err when it declined to allow DeChristopher to present evidence he claimed proved the illegality of the entire Bureau of Land Management auction.

The Obama administration later upended the auction held in the final months of President George W. Bush's administration, rescinding many of the parcels and denying them to winning bidders.

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