Jail sentence affirmed for protestor submitting fake oil and gas lease bids

, The National Law Journal


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has affirmed a two-year prison sentence for a man who falsely made oil and gas lease bids at a government auction to protest the environmental impact of drilling.

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What's being said

  • Frank

    From WIkipedia:

    "The government has made the claim that there were legal alternatives to standing in
    the way of this auction. Particularly, I could have filed a written protest against certain parcels. The government does not mention, however, that two months prior to this auction, in October 2008, a Congressional report was released that looked into those protests. The report, by the House committee on public lands, stated that it had become common practice for the BLM to take volunteers from the oil and gas industry to process those permits. The oil industry was paying people specifically to volunteer for the industry that was supposed to be regulating it, and it was to those industry staff that I would have been appealing."

    DeChristopher's defense claimed a selective prosecution defense in March 2010. Defense attorney Ron Yengich suspected "political machinations" behind DeChristopher's indictment. DeChristopher learned about his indictment from an Associated Press reporter informed by an oil and gas lobbyist in Washington D.C. Yengich also requested information from federal prosecutors regarding previous cases where individuals and energy companies that reneged on bids for public land without prosecution. Judge Benson denied that request, citing “no support for further discovery.”

    Benson adamantly asserted that DeChristopher's actions were largely unsuccessful and undeserving of comparisons to historical acts of civil disobedience by figures such as Rosa Parks and Henry David Thoreau. However, DeChristopher's actions garnered national attention for an illegal government auction of public land leases during the final days of the Bush administration. On January 17, 2009, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina temporarily halted the sale of 77 parcels, citing BLM violations of environmental laws protecting air quality and historic preservation. In February 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar shelved 77 disputed lease parcels[13] – some of which had been won by DeChristopher at auction — and criticized Bush administrators for conducting a “rush review” of the contested lands.

    Judge Benson explained to the court and to DeChristopher that were it not for DeChristopher's "continuing trail of statements" post-auction, he might have avoided prosecution and prison time. Judge Benson stated, "The offense itself, with all apologies to people actually in the auction itself, wasn't that bad."

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