Soapbox Monday: What to do about Tim DeChristopher?

National Parks Drilling
Tim DeChristopher raises his fist outside the courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, March 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Deseret News, Ravell Call)

On Tuesday, activist Tim DeChristopher is due to be sentenced in a Salt Lake City federal court after being convicted for disrupting a federal sale of of oil and gas leases and making false statements on forms that gained him entry to the auction of the leases.

Since being convicted in March, DeChristopher has become a kind of eco-celebrity, and groups are planning demonstrations of solidarity. The Salt Lake Times reports that one will be held outside the courthouse, organized by the group Peaceful Uprising.

In 2008, DeChristopher attended the federal auction and successfully made $1.8 million in bids, but then did not pay them.  He has said he was attempting to delay the auction as a protest of U.S. climate change policy. But others contend that in addition to the illegal bidding, his actions also drove up the prices for leases on other parcels.

A Facebook "causes" page is asking President Obama to pardon him.

He faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of $750,000.

Plenty of activists have weighed in, supporting DeChristopher. The latest comes from Allison Fisher, outreach director for the energy program of the consumer advocacy organization, Public Citizen:

"DeChristopher saw the auction as an attack on the nation’s irreplaceable public land and wanted to save the southern Utah property from potential drilling. He hoped that if he delayed the auction, the leases might be reconsidered by the then-incoming Obama administration.

 "DeChristopher’s bidding was an act of resistance by a concerned citizen. No individuals were harmed, and DeChristopher even offered to pay the government for his winning bids, even though the federal auction was later deemed illegitimate.

 "Now, a well-intentioned environmental activist could face jail time. While the actions of major corporations like Massey Energy and BP have led to vast environmental damages, safety hazards and even deaths, these companies never seem to get the punishment they deserve. When compared to the leniency afforded corporate polluters, his potential sentence seems unreasonably severe."

So what do you think? Should he be made an example so other eco-activists won't be so bold? Or was he right?  Should he get no jail time? A little bit? The max?

Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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