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Submission + - Student Faces Prison for Disrupting Oil Auctions

pickens writes: Hugh Pickens writes:

The NY Times reports that last December Tim DeChristopher went to a federal auction of oil and gas leases offered in the Bush administration's closing days and even then the subject of protests and lawsuits — and bid on contracts that he had neither the money nor intent to actually fulfill. "My intention was to cause as much of a disruption to the auction as I could," says DeChristopher, a 27-year-old student at the University of Utah. "Making that decision — that keeping the oil in the ground was worth going to prison — that was the decision I made." DeChristopher is now charged with two felony counts of interfering with an auction and making false statements on bidding forms even as most of the specific leases DeChristopher protested — many of them near national parks or monuments — have not only been deferred or taken off the table by federal land managers in the Obama administration but also scathingly disavowed. "There was a headlong rush to leasing in the prior administration that led to the kinds of shortcuts we have demonstrated," says Obama's Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. DeChristopher praised Salazar's decision, saying it represents government taking a "serious stance in the defense of our land and climate." Federal prosecutors argue that whether DeChristopher was on some level correct in opposing the leases is irrelevant and DeChristopher now faces up to five years in prison on each of the two counts and up to $750,000 in fines. DeChristopher's attorney has asked the judge to allow a so-called necessity defense at the trial.enabling DeChristopher to argue that he faced a "choice of evils" that justified breaking the law. "Bush and the [Bureau of Land Management] should be on trial here," says DeChristopher's lawyer.

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