November 24th, 2011 by Zachary Shahan
How would you like to be spending your Thanksgiving in a federal prison? And how would you like to be doing so for trying to help the world and for trying to stop some illegal destruction of treasured wild lands?
If you aren’t yet aware, that’s the predicament of Tim DeChristopher. And it is supposed to be next year, as well.
Well, he’s working to get himself out of this unwanted predicament — he’s filed an appeal for the case of the United States of America vs. Tim DeChristopher. The appeal (quite lengthy) has been posted on the website for Tim’s organization, Peaceful Uprising.
The essence of it is that DeChristopher wasn’t given the chance to defend himself in the case above. He was not allowed to discuss why he did what he did, which was central to his defense.
DeChristopher’s defense for bidding on oil and gas leases he had no intention to purchase was that they were being auctioned off illegally and, if someone didn’t disrupt the process, acres upon acres of natural lands would have been illegally purchased and developed, causing destruction of protected wildlife and global warming, which we are supposed to be doing everything we can to limit.
Some more from the appeal:
On Dec. 19, 2008, the BLM, then acting in the last days of the Bush administration, held an auction for oil and gas leases of roughly 150,000 acres of public lands. The auction involved several unique and treasured landscapes near Arches National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, Desolation Canyon, Nine Mile Canyon, Hatch Point, and the Needles Overlook. Several of the parcels to be auctioned were on environmentally and archeologically sensitive areas and public lands supporting local economies as tourist attractions, and encompassed protected fish and wildlife habitats….
As the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar acknowledged after the fact, the Bush administration engaged in a “headlong rush to leasing,” and in arranging for the auction took “shortcuts” and actions that were not scientifically sound or in compliance with the environmental laws (DA 206, 309-313). The BLM did not provide the standard three-month notice previously given as to which parcels of land were up for lease and cut short the normal study and objection period for the National Park Service and other federal and state agencies and organizations. It was on October 31, 2008 that the BLM finalized six resource management plans, each over 1,000 pages long, and on Election Day, November 4, 2008, that it announced the parcels for the December 19th auction. As a result of the lack of notice, the normal studies done to weigh the public interests in health, land management, environmental safety, wilderness protection, and archeological and historical preservation against the financial interests of oil and gas companies were not adequately performed….
The BLM received and largely disregarded complaints from the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, Hopi Tribe, and numerous other organizations, that it had failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and Secretarial Order 3226, which required it to “consider and analyze potential climate change impacts” in its management plans.
A trial court later did decide that the auctioning of these lands for lease was illegal.
Back to DeChristopher’s appeal:
The trial court’s rulings prior to and during the trial violated DeChristopher’s fundamental constitutional rights to defend against the serious criminal charges he was facing. Had he been allowed to present his defense, DeChristopher would have demonstrated that the federal government employees who prepared the auction were violating the laws designed to bring integrity to the process of leasing our public lands. By thwarting the auction, he was trying to stop them from breaking the laws and to stop the harms flowing from the illegal auction. Even after the Government presented evidence that BLM employees had spent six months complying with the relevant laws in preparing for the auction, and that DeChristopher’s single-handed foiling of the auction cost the national and Utah taxpayers millions of dollars, the court disallowed all evidence concerning the true history of the auction and the governmental nullification thereof, and the harms posed by the auction. Thus, the jurors were left to deliberate with significantly misleading and distorted evidence to the effect that in interfering with the auction, DeChristopher had seriously harmed them and other taxpayers for no ostensible reason.
It is elementary constitutional law that people may not be punished for their exercise of First Amendment rights. The trial court repeatedly recognized, with the agreement of the prosecution, that DeChristopher was prosecuted because he went to the press and expressed his opinions after the alleged crimes. The court should have dismissed the case. Instead, the court sent DeChristopher to prison expressly because of his ongoing advocacy of his political beliefs.
All of the errors discussed herein are obvious, indisputable, and outcome-determinative. This Court should reverse the convictions and sentence, and remand for dismissal of the charges.
Again there’s much more over on Peaceful Uprising.
The thing that really gets me is that someone doing something “illegal” to stop something else illegal as been sentenced to 2 years in prison while no one engaged in the original illegal action is serving any time.
Tim DeChristopher Image via 350.org
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