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CONTACT: Peaceful Uprising
DeChristopher Prepares for Sentence Supporters “Pray for Best, Prepare for Worst”
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - July 26 - Nearly three years after disrupting a controversial Bureau of Land Management auction of Utah public lands, Tim DeChristopher, 29, faces a potential ten years in federal prison at his sentencing hearing at 3:00 PM today.
DeChristopher was convicted of two felonies in March of 2011 after registering as a “good faith” bidder and outbidding oil and gas energy giants without intention or means to pay for the parcels he won. The auction was later overturned by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who ruled that the majority of parcels (including land adjacent to recreation areas, national parks and private residences) had not undergone adequate review. Despite cancelling the auction, the Obama administration proceeded to indict DeChristopher, whose trial and sentencing has continually been rescheduled for the last two and a half years. Judge Dee Benson ruled early on that Salazar’s dismissal of the auction and DeChristopher’s motivation would not be admissible in court during his trial.
Prosecuting attorneys John Huber and Scott Romney filed an unusually aggressive pre-sentencing report last week, urging Judge Benson to disregard recommendations of the sentencing officer in order to levy a heavy prison sentence and make an example of DeChristopher to disincline others from civil disobedience. “The defendant’s sentence should effectively communicate that similar acts will have definite consequences,” the pre-sentencing report states. “To be sure, a federal prison term here will deter others from entering a path of criminal behavior.”
DeChristopher and his non-profit organization, Peaceful Uprising, have asserted that the highly publicized prosecution is a means for the federal government to intimidate activists in general. The organization encourages non-violent civil disobedience as an effective tactic to further progressive social change. When asked about DeChristopher’s sentence, board member Jacob Hanson replied, “We’ve always known that this prosecution has nothing to do with Tim, or justice. It’s all politics. It’s outrageous and immoral, but people have to be brave, and make sacrifices.”
Sympathizers for DeChristopher’s sentencing date are gathering at noon near the courthouse until the hearing begins at 3:00 pm. “We’ve moved from joy and resolve to love and outrage,” said Hanson. “The best thing we can do to support Tim is to refuse to be intimidated.”