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Bidder #70
July 26, 2011 6:24 PM   Subscribe

Lauded as a civil disobedience symbol agitating for urgent reaction to climate change, Timothy DeChristopher was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Huber argued... that DeChristopher isn’t sorry for hijacking the auction and deserves a harsh sentence. He cited a spate of media interviews DeChristopher gave after his conviction, including a speech on the courthouse steps in which DeChristopher told a throng of reporters that “if we are to achieve our vision, many after me will have to join me [in prison] as well.”
posted by Trurl (49 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Long live Tim DeChristopher!
posted by long haired child at 6:26 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hero of our times.
posted by stbalbach at 6:28 PM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


And in case you missed it, Alex Chadwick's astonishing new audio piece on DeChristopher, The Descent.
posted by mykescipark at 6:31 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by gauche at 6:32 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's one way to write the introduction. Another would be "Convicted felon Tim DeChristopher was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison. DeChristopher made fraudulent statements to the federal government in order to disrupt an auction of oil and gas leases."
posted by grouse at 6:34 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's one way to write the introduction. Another would be "Convicted felon Tim DeChristopher was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison. DeChristopher made fraudulent statements to the federal government in order to disrupt an auction of oil and gas leases."

I have no particular sympathy for this doofus either, but two years in prison + three years of probation for what's essentially minor fraud resulting in (it sounds like) nothing more than an auction do-over seems nuts to me.
posted by eugenen at 6:37 PM on July 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


"Illegal auction," grouse. "In order to disrupt an illegal auction of oil and gas leases."

This is what civil disobedience looks like.
posted by koeselitz at 6:38 PM on July 26, 2011 [43 favorites]


Strangely, the BP execs who've made fraudulent statements to the federal government , disrupted oil production, and caused untold damage to the US environment and economy have not received ANY jail time.
posted by theplotchickens at 6:38 PM on July 26, 2011 [82 favorites]


Let's also note that a huge chunk of the "loss" that the BLM claims was down to the fact that many of the leases were later found to be illegal. So convicting this guy of a crime is like convicting me of stealing cocaine, because, hey, I could have made good money selling that coke!
posted by koeselitz at 6:39 PM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's one way to write the introduction.

Both links are to local Utah newspapers - neither of which are noted for defiance of the prevailing conservatism in this state.

Top of the fold gives one side of the story, bottom of the fold gives the other side.

That was as straight down the middle as I could pitch it.
posted by Trurl at 6:40 PM on July 26, 2011


And yet, on the very same page, there's this guy, who gets probation:

Arsonist gets probation
A man charged with setting fire to two South Salt Lake church meetinghouses — causing more than $400,000 in damage — has been sentenced to probation
posted by etaoin at 6:41 PM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Usually sentences are reduced for those who show some remorse for their crime.

In any case, I'm not arguing that this guy should or should not be in jail (I expect that I would probably be against these leases too if I studied the issue further), but I would prefer a less editorialized assessment of the situation in the news, and, yes, on the front page of MetaFilter. I thought the previous thread did a good job of simply summarizing the facts.
posted by grouse at 6:44 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some of the parcels to be leased were adjacent to Arches National Park.
posted by Trurl at 6:48 PM on July 26, 2011


That's one way to write the introduction. Another would be "Convicted felon Tim DeChristopher was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison. DeChristopher made fraudulent statements to the federal government in order to disrupt an auction of oil and gas leases."

There are quite a few people who have been imprisoned by the government who are now universally regarded as heroes. The court system is one of the primary tools the powerful use to punish people who are getting in their way.
posted by notion at 6:52 PM on July 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is this something I'd need a natural gas power plant feeding my online habits to understand? Sorry, the irony of the moment overcame me. Not so much anyone else's hypocrisy so much as my own.
posted by nola at 6:55 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Convicted felon Tim DeChristopher was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison. DeChristopher misrepresented his intentions regarding illegal leases for parcels of land the federal government acquired through the deliberate genocide of America's indigenous population. Observers have described the outcome of this case as a vindication for all the institutions that can casually bring the power of overwhelming violence against their enemies.

In other news, Tim DeChristopher was released from jail and awarded a medal after acquiring over three dozen fusion warheads.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 6:58 PM on July 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Usually sentences are reduced for those who show some remorse for their crime.

Sort of: federal sentencing guidelines allow for some limited reduction of sentence for showing remorse but it would seems that this guy isn't likely to sign up for the few extra months off. Meanwhile the federal government goes broke while it will cost tax payers over $60,000 to keep this guy in jail for 24 months along with a million other non-violent offenders to the tune of $24 billion.
posted by specialk420 at 6:59 PM on July 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just goes to show, where there's a will there's a way... Of course, if your entire business model is based on fraudulent business contracts:
Two former Florida prosecutors are accusing the state Attorney General of firing them for going after mortgage lenders too aggressively.

The Sun Sentinel reported that Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson were abruptly fired by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at the end of May and say the attention they were focusing on combating mortgage fraud was the reason.

posted by ennui.bz at 7:08 PM on July 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this guy is a hero of mine. You can have your baseball assholes and your NFL brain damaged monstrosities and your doping bike riders and your philandering golfers. I'll take a trickster over any of those losers any time I have a choice.

If I ever have a kid I'll point to this guy and say, "If you read a lot, actually grow to give a shit, and don't take anything too seriously you might get a shot to turn out like Timothy DeChristopher."

This guy's only mistake was not signing his name as Matt Howie.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:17 PM on July 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's ... effed up.

Two years in prison, $10,000, and three years probation for pranking an auction?

There's a legal defense fund, if you're so inclined.
posted by notyou at 7:19 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This guy is a well intentioned dipshit. Good old fashioned lawyering and changing political climate put an end to the auction. His prank, on the other hand, was fraud, regardless of the legality eventually determined over the auction. He wanted to play Gandhi, now he gets his chance.

The real bizarre thing I've noticed about DeChristopher's notoriety is the cadre of folks who are also vested in him playing Gandhi. Maybe to demonstrate his level of commitment, he could demand to stay in prison for the full possible ten years instead.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:47 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


He wanted to play Gandhi, now he gets his chance.

Yeah and look at what good Ghandi's tactics did. What a dipshit, huh?
posted by stbalbach at 7:58 PM on July 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


This is the problem of the civil disobedient. You have to provoke the state into acting against you in order to win allies for your cause. Unfortunately people may just decide you were an idiot, or be unsympathetic.
posted by humanfont at 8:05 PM on July 26, 2011


Except that his tactics didn't really do much other than prank some parties participating in an auction in good faith. And in the end, some near anonymous environmental lawyer advocates did the real work to stop the auctioning off of land rights.

In short, DeChristopher is no Gandhi. Just fancies himself that way.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:06 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


parties participating in an auction in good faith.

My understanding is that the federal authorities holding up the auction weren't operating within the bounds of the law, and arguably not in good faith. Is this a misconception?

in the end, some near anonymous environmental lawyer advocates did the real work to stop the auctioning off of land rights.

My understanding is also that DeChristopher's stalling tactics provided valuable time for some legal redress to be pursued, but even if that's not the case, I think it'd be better to maybe drum up some praise for the environmental lawyer than dump on the guy who tried to do something while most of the world (beyond the heroic environmental lawyers, of course) was probably whining ineffectually.
posted by weston at 8:15 PM on July 26, 2011 [4 favorites]



My understanding is that the federal authorities holding up the auction weren't operating within the bounds of the law, and arguably not in good faith. Is this a misconception?


Even if this is the case, there were several parties who seem to have participated in good faith, and lost not because of unlawful act by the government, but unlawful act by an individual. It's not clear that DeChristopher was even sure about the legality of the auctions at the time. As far as he's concerned, the auctions could have been held again after his bid was found to be fraudulent, and he would still have had the glory of going down for the cause.

I think it'd be better to maybe drum up some praise for the environmental lawyer than dump on the guy who tried to do something

The problem I have with DeChristopher trying to do something is that it amounted to a whole lot of attention seeking completely overshadowing everything else about the auctions. To this day, it's still about the purity of his dedication and his bid for fame. The details over the auctions and the environmental lawyers are rendered obscure details that subtract from his heroism, and largely remain obscure to this day.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:00 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't even know about this and I wouldn't have...except for DeChristopher's actions.

Bless him for his selflessness. The consequences of his actions are benefiting us all, even the haters.

You can explain to me to you're out of breath 1) why this man is not a hero, and 2) how he is a criminal. When it's the future of something irreplaceable he's sticking his neck out there for, I'm deaf to such criticism.

DeChristopher's walking-the-talk in defense of the have-nots from the entitlement-suffering haves. As Ms Jackson so matter-of-factly spelled it out, "What have you done for me lately?"
posted by Mike Mongo at 9:10 PM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


All I know is that protestors (26 of whom were arrested) decided to disrupt my light rail service home (KSL link). Protesting the only mass transit option available and causing hour long delays for my commute home to make the point that the environment needs help ... by punishing those who are trying to help it by not driving into work every day with massive delays. Thanks folks.
posted by msbutah at 9:16 PM on July 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Direct action! Cheers to Tim DeC.
posted by anarch at 9:46 PM on July 26, 2011


there were several parties who seem to have participated in good faith, and lost not because of unlawful act by the government, but unlawful act by an individual

I'm less worried about this than if they'd participated in good faith and won because of an unlawful act by govt administrators, myself. Would that have been an improvement?

It's not clear that DeChristopher was even sure about the legality of the auctions at the time

Most of the narratives I've read are clear that he was indeed unsure.
posted by weston at 10:02 PM on July 26, 2011


"Even if this is the case, there were several parties who seem to have participated in good faith, and lost not because of unlawful act by the government, but unlawful act by an individual. It's not clear that DeChristopher was even sure about the legality of the auctions at the time. As far as he's concerned, the auctions could have been held again after his bid was found to be fraudulent, and he would still have had the glory of going down for the cause. "

So what?

I mean, it seems so weird to begrudge this guy's actions on the account of him getting famous for them, especially because he's only gonna be blog famous, really. He made it to the news, but folks aren't going to really remember him in a year or so.

The justice department is missing a great opportunity to refocus attention on the real crimes of the auction and is instead acting like punishing this guy is the last line between civilization and roving packs of dune buggy cannibals. This is dumb grandstanding by people who have mistaken the purpose of government to be preserving the prerogatives of government, and who are simultaneously failing to take an opportunity to make this country better by playing politics astutely.

When the harm is greater to abstract machinations than it is to either real people or the rule of law, the just thing to do is to force recompense for the concrete harm done and ignore (if not condone) the rest. Making this about DeChristopher and whether he deserves to be admired is at odds with common sense and reads petulantly.
posted by klangklangston at 10:20 PM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anything that disrupts business as usual without harming a single person makes me happy. If it disrupts illegitimate business then it is even better.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:29 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, dude; this guy's great. We need more like him.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:20 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Making this about DeChristopher and whether he deserves to be admired is at odds with common sense and reads petulantly.

This. If there is a touch of ego in his actions, I'm happy to overlook it. At the end of the day, he is one person trying to make a difference. How many can really say the same?

And if the world must have celebrities, let them be environmental campaigners, not an endless stream of vacuous narcissists who earn public idolatry for sleeping with each other and wearing the right clothes.
posted by londonmark at 3:58 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem I have with DeChristopher trying to do something is that it amounted to a whole lot of attention seeking...

Every time someone gets in the news for opposing some activity of the corporate state, they are belittled as being "attention-seekers." It's an empty argument. If that really is the problem you have with his actions, you don't have a real problem with them, so why are you making so much noise?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:17 AM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


From an article in the previous post:

"The process was thrown into chaos and the bidding halted for a time before the auction was closed, with 116 parcels totaling 148,598 acres having sold for $7.2 million plus fees."

Okay, so this is what it looked like when bidding was driven up? $50/acre? Where the hell do I sign up to buy a parcel?
posted by Deathalicious at 5:54 AM on July 27, 2011


Where the hell do I sign up to buy a parcel?

My guess is that you aren't buying a parcel, but rather the gas and mineral rights on that parcel. You have to have the economic backing to exploit those rights. Just remember, if there's someone on that property you have to right to force them to allow you onto their land.

NPR did a story about people fighting companies in court and losing. Then their land was basically destroyed by trucks driving over it at all hours of the day. I'm not saying that this is the case in this auction, but just because you own the parcel doesn't mean you have any rights to what is buried under it.

Even if you're in a state that does say that, there's always eminent domain when they need to build a road or put up a cell tower.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:34 AM on July 27, 2011


a whole lot of attention seeking...

Drawing attention to corruption or injustice requires you to draw attention, I would think. Worse, implicit in that "attention-seeking" line is this permicious idea that we should all just shut up, keep our heads down and just accept these wrongs as inevitable and unchangeable. And seriously, fuck that noise for real.
posted by mhoye at 6:37 AM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


worth it. way to go, guy, you'll probably have a good life.
posted by klapaucius at 7:13 AM on July 27, 2011


DeChristopher's full statement from his sentencing.
posted by HumanComplex at 7:34 AM on July 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


If this guy wasn't making such a fuss, I would not personally have learned about the work done by those near-anonymous lawyers, and the fact that this all happened in the first place, so, thanks for that, guy in jail.
posted by davejay at 9:56 AM on July 27, 2011


Having read through everything now, I'll just say this: the sentence is ideal, not because it will deter other people from doing it, but because it is just severe enough to ensure that it will get some publicity, and emphasize the importance that oil companies et al put on stopping people who speak out in this fashion. Given his familial track record, this isn't a whim that he's pursuing, and two years imprisoned is grossly unfair -- but will also net him significant credibility and capital for his future endeavors.
posted by davejay at 10:10 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jurors Not Allowed To Hear That DeChristopher Tried to Pay For His Bids & Feds Rejected His Money
posted by homunculus at 10:41 AM on July 27, 2011


Tim DeChristopher? They’re Jailing the White Hats
posted by homunculus at 10:50 AM on July 27, 2011


Tim DeChristopher supporters issue oil protest 'call to action'
posted by homunculus at 10:54 AM on July 27, 2011


Thank you HumanComplex, his statement at sentencing is quite an amazing document.
posted by Jim Slade at 11:18 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


That statement is incredible. Pass it on.

"More generally, the question of whether civil disobedience is good for the public is a matter of perspective. Civil disobedience is inherently an attempt at change. Those in power, whom Mr Huber represents, are those for whom the status quo is working, so they always see civil disobedience as a bad thing. The decision you are making today, your honor, is what segment of the public you are meant to protect. Mr Huber clearly has cast his lot with that segment who wishes to preserve the status quo. But the majority of the public is exploited by the status quo far more than they are benefited by it. The young are the most obvious group who is exploited and condemned to an ugly future by letting the fossil fuel industry call the shots. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific research, some of which you received as part of our proffer on the necessity defense, that reveals the catastrophic consequences which the young will have to deal with over the coming decades."
posted by kaibutsu at 11:41 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


DeChristopher's full statement from his sentencing.

Wow.

I feel like I've just read the end of The Fountainhead from an alternate universe, where what the protagonist says not only has the same fire but actually makes sense.

Jurors Not Allowed To Hear That DeChristopher Tried to Pay For His Bids & Feds Rejected His Money

Huh.
posted by weston at 11:49 AM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


DOJ’s Twisted Notion of Rule of Law Is Poisoning Our Country
posted by homunculus at 3:52 PM on July 29, 2011


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