SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – A jury reached a verdict in the case of The United States vs. Tim DeChristopher on Thursday.
A jury convicted Tim DeChristopher over his bogus bids for oil and gas drilling leases, after deliberating for approximately four hours.
Outside the courthouse, DeChristopher met with his supporters and delivered a passionate message to them.
"We know that I will have to go to prison," he said. "We know that's a reality. But that's just a job that I have to do. That's the role I face and many before me have gone to jail for justice and if we are going to achieve our vision many after me will join me as well."
DeChristopher was indicted with one count of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, and one count of making a False Statement to a government entity.
DeChristopher was accused of submitting bogus bids during a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction in 2008. During the auction, DeChristopher secured the oil and gas drilling rights to several parcels of land within the boundaries of some of the national parks in Utah. DeChristopher bid approximately $1.8 million dollars to win the bids, some of which were canceled by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar after he was appointed by President Obama in 2009. The parcels were originally designated by the Bush administration late in 2008, just before he left office.
DeChristopher has since claimed that he did it to curtail global warming.
And when asked if he would do it again DeChristopher responded with a firm resolve.
"I wouldn't change a thing," he said.
His supporters all applauded and smiled when he said that.
"It had the initial impact that I expected because it drew attention to the auction and the auction was reversed," he said. "But all of this was more than I could have ever asked for, these people taking a stand, this makes it more worth it than I could have asked for."
He walked amongst his supporters offering hugs and shaking hands. Some of the young women had tears in their eyes after the verdict.
"We're watching our friend go to prison but it's opening up a whole new conversation I think needed to happen and the whole world is participating," said Dylan Schneider of Salt Lake City. "It is sad but happy because it's a needed change.
Prosecutors never looked at DeChristopher as an environmental savior. Instead they saw him as a criminal who sabotaged a government auciton.
"His stunt halted the bidding," said U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen. "It ended up costing taxpayers thousands of dollars."
Christensen said that he faces up to ten years in prison but her office will not recommend the maximum sentence. He remains a free man until his sentencing June 23.
In closing arguments Thursday morning, Prosecutor Greg Huber claimed DeChristopher went to the auction on December 19, 2008 with the intention of committing sabotage.
“He chose a path of illegality and criminal conduct,” said Huber. “He wanted to derail the auction. He posed as a bidder. He drove up prices and he smirked as he did so.”
DeChristopher’s defense attorney Ron Yengich argued that his client’s intention was “far from clear’ during his closing statement to the jury.
Yengich argued that despite comments from DeChristopher’s that explained his beliefs in global warming, his client did not conspire to disrupt the auction.
“He had no desire to bid,” said Yengich. “A lady directed him over to the bidder table because she thought he was a representative for an oil company.”
Yengich also argued that DeChristopher made a “spur of the moment” decision when he decided to bid on land parcels.
“He wasn’t there to fool anyone,” said Yengich. “What he did was to come in, and when he saw what was happening, in hid mind, he wanted to offer a statement. He was offering hope for people.”
Several protestors supporting DeChristopher have gathered outside the federal courthouse during the trial.
DeChristopher is an admitted environmental activist who believes man-made factors have contributed to climate change.
DeChristopher now faces up to a $750,000 fine and 10 years in federal prison for the conviction.
Sentencing was scheduled for June 23.
Outside the courthouse, a defiant DeChristopher spoke about the trial to his supporters.
"I know I will have to go to prison," said DeChristopher. "Many before me have gone to jail for justice, and if we are going to achieve our vision, many after me will have to go as well."
Stay tuned to ABC 4 News and ABC4.com for more on this story.