Published on March 2nd, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan
Tim DeCristopher is on Trial: Initial Statements/Testimony
I wrote about Tim DeChristopher’s trial, the courageous and inspirational action that led to it, and ways of supporting him a couple weeks ago. For the backstory, check out that link or watch the video above.
The Salt Lake Tribune has a full transcript (though, maybe not entirely perfect, as it’s not official) of DeChristopher’s initial testimony at the trial today. Here are some key parts of it:
- DeChristopher, directed by the defense attorney, has testified that he had never been to an auction before, didn’t know the rules of the auction or laws of bidding (just had some general ideas about it, some correct — how to bid — and some not — he thought he had to be a bidder to get into the auction room when, in fact, he didn’t), and wasn’t informed of a number of things — that he had a right to just observe (“My impression was that I had to sign up to be a bidder to get inside the auction. I would have to fill out the bidder-registration form.”) and what to do with his paddle once he got to the auction floor.
- DeChristopher also noted that he had no plan before getting to the auction other than to go inside (a plan he came up with that morning). He had a final exam in “current economic problems” that day (which he got an “A” on) and was going to be late to the protest. In his own words, regarding his limited plan: “That morning I had realized that the protest wasn’t really going to have much of an impact, and this auction deserved more than just holding a sign. I wanted to go inside and take stronger action to really raise a red flag as to what was going on there.” DeChristopher said he “was aware there were quite a few legitimate concerns about whether the government was following its own procedures” in this auction. “I didn’t have any intent to do anything inside the auction at that point [when he arrived at the protest and decided to go in].” Even when signing up to be a bidder, he said he had no intent at that point to actually bid.
- DeChristopher thought, sitting in the auction, that he would bid in order to bring the prices up to their “fair-market value” for the land. In the process of bidding, he recognized that he could perhaps throw the process off enough that it would be made illegitimate and that would give the Obama administration enough time to protect some of those lands. “Once I saw the way the auction was operating, I realized with the bid card I was given there was an opportunity for me to cause enough of a delay for the new [Obama] administration to come in and reconsider the auction as they had already indicated in the paper.”
- DeChristopher said that in the bidding process, after winning his first bid, he “wasn’t sure” if he was violating any rules and that he had not “formed any intention to violate the rules at that point.” He also confirmed that he was not “aware of the statutes or the criminal codes that [he] were violating.”
- As in the video above, DeCristopher said he noticed a woman from his church was in there and was crying. He believe she was crying as a result of the auction and “At that moment, [he] made the decision that [he] had to do more to take a stand in the way of the auction.”
- DeCristopher confirmed that “the whole thing was a spur-of-the-moment idea.”
- After some time, the bidding was paused and an agent, Agent Love, asked him to step outside and talk with him. Everything seemed cordial. Love showed DeChristopher “the form of the parcels [he] had won and pointed to the figure at the bottom of the page and indicated [he] owed $45,000 and some change that day.” DeChristopher replied that he did not have the ability to pay for that. Agent Love did not say if he could pay at a later date or not. He was not informed that he had to have the money back there by 4:30 that day. (DeChristopher did go on and raise $45,000 after that time to pay for the parcels.)
- While Agent loved asked DeChristopher if he had read the registration form, he did not ask him if he had read it carefully or only skimmed it.
With DeChristopher’s situation looking pretty bleak, technically, he has asked his supporters for help now but also after the trial in the likely case that he is convicted:
“The world will be watching. They’re looking to see how you react when I’m prosecuted and when I’m likely convicted and sent to prison. … The world is watching because they want to see if you’re going to back down”
And, for some fun activism following that request, here’s a video of a march for DeChristopher on February 28, 2011:
a video of supporters singing songs outside the courtroom throughout the day:
and a video of actress Daryl Hannah giving a speech at the rally on Monday, which was also a fundraiser for Peaceful Uprising, DeChristopher’s organization, (folk icon Peter Yarrow also sang at this event):