May 11, 2012
Appeal in oil and gas lease trial begins
DENVER (UPI) -- Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher's conviction for sabotaging a federal gas and oil auction went before an appeals court in Denver Thursday.
DeChristopher, a University of Utah economics major and Salt Lake City resident who bid on leases to explore Utah lands without having the funds to buy them, has spent the past nine months in a minimum-security prison in California.
The attempt to overturn his 2011 conviction and two-year prison sentence began Thursday before a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Defense lawyers, led by attorney Ron Yengich, say federal prosecutors failed to prove DeChristopher's criminal intent, that his disruption of an auction of wilderness land was an act of civil disobedience and that the judge in the trial refused to allow testimony explaining his motives.
A time frame for a ruling on the appeal has not been arranged, and it is possible DeChristopher will serve the majority of his sentence before a decision is made, the Tribune said Thursday.
"The irony here may be that we get the appeal and win it, and it's one month before he gets out," said defense attorney Pat Shea. "But even with that I think it's worthwhile,"
A rally in support of DeChristopher was scheduled in Denver for late Thursday, the newspaper reported.