This afternoon, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was convicted of violating the federal onshore oil and gas leasing reform act and making a false statement when he bid on a federal oil and gas lease in 2008. You can read about it in this piece from TIME’s Jeanette Moses, who was in Salt Lake City covering the trial.
You can read about the background to the trial in a couple of my posts, here and here. In them you’ll learn that the lease DeChristopher worked to disrupt, held in the butt end days of the George W. Bush Administration, was later invalidated by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on the grounds that the Bureau of Land Management had failed to complete procedural prerequisites about the impact that oil and gas exploration might have on nearby national treasures. But the fact that the original lease was itself unlawful didn’t matter to the 12-person jury who convicted DeChristopher, just as U.S. District Judge Dee Benson refused to entertain DeChristopher’s argument that he was acting to prevent greater environmental damage.
DeChristopher is set to be sentenced on June 23. He could face up to 10 years in jail.
Let’s consider for a moment the targets the federal government chooses to make an example of. So far, no bankers have been charged, despite the unmitigated greed that nearly brought the world economy down. No coal or oil execs have been charged, despite fouling the entire atmosphere and putting civilization as we know it at risk.But engage in creative protest that mildly disrupts the efficient sell-off of our landscape to oil and gas barons? As Tim DeChristopher found out on Thursday, that’ll get you not just a week in court, but potentially a long stretch in the pen.
There’s no doubt that DeChristopher broke the law. But that doesn’t mean that what transpired in a Salt Lake City courtroom on March 3 bore any resemblance to justice.
Actually, I will tell you what I think about this case.
I think it’s a crime. And if DeChristopher is actually sent to jail, it will be an obscenity.
Update: See DeChristopher speech to supports on the courthouse steps after his conviction: