Prison Sentence Handed Out for Environmental Activist Tim DeChristopher
On March 3, 29 year-old Tim DeChristopher was found guilty of 2 felonies for bidding on oil and gas leases (that he didn't have the money to pay for) in an attempt to save public land from oil and gas drilling. Today, a judge in Salt Lake City handed down a sentence of 2 years in prison and $10,000.
Defense attorney Ron Yengich said at trial that DeChristopher sought to give people hope in the face of environmental degradation, though the judge did not allow him to argue that his actions were necessary to save the planet. Before jury deliberations that some described as emotional, Yengich told jurors they would have to decide "whether a spur-of-the-moment desire for hope is a federal crime."
Prosecutors said after trial that they wouldn't seek the maximum -- 10 years for violations of federal onshore leasing law. However, they filed a sentencing motion last week rejecting leniency. A probation officer's presentence report had suggested a lighter sentence because DeChristopher had taken responsibility for his actions.
But prosecutors noted DeChristopher's post-trial defiance, including an impassioned speech on the courthouse steps saying others would have to follow him to prison "if we are to achieve our vision."
Since his trial, DeChristopher has been influential in helping to inspire other activists to stand up for climate justice. As government leaders fail to make any progress on working toward real solutions to the climate crisis, I wonder if we will increasingly see more folks stepping up en masse to engage in civil disobedience and perhaps some monkey-wrenching.
You can read a pre-trial interview that DeChristopher did with AlterNet's Tina Gerhardt here.