Federal jury in Utah convicts environmentalist

Tim DeChristopher walks to the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse with an unidentified woman, right, Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, in Salt Lake City. DeChristopher faces trial this week on charges that he thwarted a 2008 oil-and-gas lease auction to bring attention to climate change.

SALT LAKE CITY — An environmentalist has been convicted of making $1.8 million in false oil and gas drilling bids at a federal auction in a case that became a cause celebre among activists and Hollywood stars.

Authorities say 29-year-old Tim DeChristopher made the bids to run up the price of 13 oil-and-gas leases near Utah’s Arches and Canyonlands national parks but lacked the ability to pay.

A federal jury reached its verdict today, finding DeChristopher guilty of two felony counts of interfering with and making false representations at a government auction.

He could face as many as 10 years in prison and a fine of $750,000.

A University of Utah economics student at the time, he offered to cover the bill with an Internet fundraising campaign, but the government refused to accept any of the money.


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