Did non-violent protest work here?

The news is that Tim de Christopher is getting out of a California federal prison a bit early, after 18 months instead of 2 years.  He will serve out the last 6 months in a Salt Lake City halfway house.  Presumably there in work release they will try to have his ethical standards rehabilitated back to the heedless and pecuniary norms of the system. Climate Campaigner Tim DeChristopher Released From Prison. Activist calls for “genuine justice” in court system. By Common Dreams staff.

In case folks have forgotten him, De Christopher, back near the end of the Dubya Administration, tried with success to stop one government auction of oil and gas leases on public land. They were located in and near very scenic Utah redrock, canyon country and next to national parks.

De Christopher posed as a bidder with money so to compete for oil leases at the auction held by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). He won 14 drilling parcels after bidding almost $1.8 million. He had no money to pay and the auction ended in an uproar.  He argued that he was trying to use the publicity to raise money to make good his efforts to protect the Earth including stopping climate change.

People who do this sort of thing generally expect to go prison or worse. The tactic, which sometimes works, is to gain public support by getting good publicity about the nobility of the deed and the awfulness of the system.  The federal government, as administered in Utah by the federal prosecutor and Utah federal district court, is not a forum that has tolerance for obstructing established corporate power . . .  certainly not obstruction of corporate persons like oil companies.  The judge prohibited the defense from arguing to the jury that his crime was based on conviction, not an attempt to defraud the government. They refused to allow the jury the knowledge that since the event enough money had been raised to pay for the leases he won. The judge also stopped further discovery when it was found that in the past oil lease winners had reneged and suffered no legal charges.

According to the Wikipedia, while he was in prison there is evidence that de Christopher was harassed by an unnamed congressman who used his influence to have him removed from minimum security and put into a special isolation facility.

De Christopher has started an organization, Peaceful Uprising.

An important question is whether De Christoper’s time as a political prisoner was worth it. The leases were stopped and the Obama Administration then cancelled them altogether. Meanwhile, however, Obama and Romney are both talking about who has, or will, offer for lease the most public land to the oil and gas industry.  No one talks about climate change. Many are saying that after a Romney victory, there will be policy to auction or give away the public lands of the United States.

In other countries those who oppose the oil industry so directly often disappear. De Christopher’s well being is far better than that, or of sometimes Utahan Joe Hill who worried the Utah “copper bosses” a century ago.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

7 Responses to Conscience oil lease bidder Tim de Christopher is getting out of prison for half way house

  1. avatar skyrim says:

    I wonder who the “unnamed congressman” is? Any speculation?

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Skyrim,

      The story about the congressman, at least the one with the most details, came from Rolling Stone. http://is.gd/2jWchm

      De Christopher’s attorney is Pat Shea and the original information seems to have come from him. Shea was Clinton’s national director of the BLM, one of the few good ones the agency ever had. As a Democrat (Shea) in such a red state, I imagine there was really heavy behind the scenes politics and maybe payback.

      • avatar skyrim says:

        Well, a likely place to begin looking would be related to this morsel: “Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz sits on the House Subcommittee that oversees the Bureau of Prisons”

        • avatar Salle says:

          I know the following vid is not exactly about Tim DeChristopher but after a couple minutes into this you will see none other than Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz doing what, apparently, he does so well. You can imagine, and probably correctly, where he’s coming from and how he could well be the butthead who has been at the crux of making sure DeChristopher was abused as much as possible for upsetting the Koch Industries and their pals. I think Utah Congressional, Senate and State legislators should be investigated for racketeering IMHO.

          for reference of political character…

          http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#49367830

  2. avatar Louise Kane says:

    A real hero the kind without a gun and a conscience

    Ralph when you say after a Romney victory I hope you mean if
    its too terrible to contemplate

  3. avatar jdubya says:

    Tim is a political prisoner, it is as simple as that. Others have done the same as him, walked away without paying the bill, and were then invited back for more auctions. Only Tim was entered into the penal system for such an act. What a waste of time, money, and 2 plus years of Tim’s life. DOJ is a fools paradise.

  4. avatar Ben Schoppe says:

    Chris is a criminal who committed fraud, stole opportunities and jobs, caused unneeded expenses, deprived Utahns and Americans the utilization of public resources.
    He is no more a political criminal then the terrorists held by our nation. He simply chose a different venue.
    Law must apply to all. This was not a ‘victimless’ crime. He could have purchased the leases legitimately and done what he pleased with them.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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