By Laurel Whitney
4 March 11
“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” Henry David Thoreau on Civil Disobedience
A collective gasp was heard late afternoon yesterday as Tim DeChristopher was found guilty after only 5 hours of jury deliberation. Officially charged with one count of False Statement and one count of violating the Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, suddenly everyone was left thinking- did they convict the real criminal?
Much of the last two days of trial had focused on DeChristopher's intent when bidding for BLM land leases. Prosecutor John Hubert argued that DeChristopher intentionally "disrupted, derailed, and sabotaged" the auction. However, defense attorney Ron Yengich painted a different picture:
"He wanted to raise a red flag," he said. "He wanted to make a statement. That’s what he wanted to do. His desire was not to thwart the auction. ... He wanted people to think about the consequences that the auction was bringing to bear on other people. But it was never his intention to harm anyone."
Maybe if Tim had run into the auction using his paddle to feverishly whack participants to prevent them from bidding, then that could be seen harmful.
But let’s put this into context:
Did Tim cause the deaths of 29 people in a mining accident fueled by poor practices and improper equipment maintenance?
Did Tim cause the deaths of 11 people when an offshore oil rig exploded because of numerous safety violations and regulatory oversights causing millions of barrels of oil to spew into the Gulf for months and effectively decimate local economies and ecosystems?
Did he contaminate acres of Amazon rainforest and years later refuse to clean it up and pay the fines?
Or did he cause a toxic gas leak at a pesticide plant that not only killed 20,000 people but continues to contaminate the water and cripplingly sicken citizens over 25 years after the original event?
No, in fact Tim only picked up a paddle. And now he’s the one facing prison. The worst any of the above companies suffered was a blow to their images. …