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Jury finds activist Tim DeChristopher guilty of both charges

Published: Friday, March 4 2011 12:26 a.m. MST

Referencing back to DeChristopher's own words to a federal agent, Huber reminded the jury that the defendant said, "I decided I could live with the consequences."

Juror Fidel Martin of West Jordan said it was the evidence presented in the case — plus DeChristopher's own admissions on the witness stand — that led to the guilty verdicts.

"It was a difficult decision," he said. "But with the evidence that was given and his statements admitting to what he did, it was convincing."

Martin said the jury struggled through much of its deliberations and it "absolutely was not" an easy decision early on to reach.

"There was a lot of decision making at the end of the day."

South Ogden juror Randy Quinney said the outcome was inevitable.

"I would have to say that it came down to the fact that Tim admitted to all the charges in his testimony; there was no other direction to go."

Quinney added that DeChristopher was a sympathetic figure who they still had to convict.

"We felt like he was supporting his purpose, yet could have went about it through the proper channels."

With sentencing months away on June 23 at 1:30 p.m., it does not appear the cause of DeChristopher's group, Peaceful Uprising, will be quieted anytime soon.

Supporters planned to gather for food and more songs at the Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City Thursday night and Logan Froerer, another member of Peaceful Uprising, said more work remains to be done.

"We want to continue the conversation begun this week," he said. "There was information that was withheld and we shone a light on the government, on the fossil fuel industry. We will take on any sense of injustice that threatens individuals and people in the world."

DeChristopher supporter Lauren Wood, of Salt Lake City, said she and many others believe the jury didn't get "the full breadth of information" in the trial, namely that the auction was later deemed invalid by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and that DeChristopher could have paid for the leases that day.

"He was never allowed to pay for them, because he was not an insider of the gas and oil industry," she said.

But Wood reiterated that the trial and larger court case has united people in a movement that will continue, despite the verdict.

"Tim galvanized all of us and the fact that he was found guilty hit me like a ton of bricks," she tearfully said. "This has galvanized change in the community here in Utah and across the nation."

Defense attorney Ron Yengich said it is too early to tell if there will be an appeal — he's waiting for the sentence handed down by Judge Dee Benson — but reiterated that the defense team did the best it could given limations imposed by the court.

"We were limited by the defense we wanted to put on," Yengich said. "That was an impediment."

DeChristopher had sought to center his case on the so-called necessity defense, which hinges on the legal premise that he chose the lesser of two evils and had to act illegally to right a wrong.

If that defense had been allowed, DeChristopher could have summoned the breadth of his motivations for acting regarding climate change and environmental impacts caused by oil and gas drilling.

Benson rejected that, however, saying there were other lawful avenues available for DeChristopher to choose, rather than resort to breaking the law.

Ashley Anderson, director of Peaceful Uprising, said it would be wrong for anyone to view DeChristopher's criminal conviction as a defeat.

"There is a solidarity that has deepened throughout the country for all movements, among all people  who are concerned about justice, who want change by demonstrating joy and resolve, not silence and anger."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com, emorgan@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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