Activist Timothy DeChristopher sentenced to 2 years in prison
Police arrest 26 protesters as emotions run high
Benson said such a detour into crime — however passionate DeChristopher's beliefs — could not be excused.
The sentencing followed a daylong vigil of sorts staged by his followers across the street from the federal courthouse, where representatives of Peaceful Uprising led the crowd in songs and rousing speeches. Peter Yarrow of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary also spoke and led a sing-a-long.
After the sentence was imposed, impassioned supporters spoke through a megaphone to a crowd gathered on the courthouse steps and implored them not to let DeChristopher's "sacrifice" be in vain.
"I ask every single one of you, what is your commitment?" one woman shouted.
Anderson let those gathered know that DeChristopher would not be coming out to address them.
"They took Tim away. He's gone for at least two years," Anderson announced. "He's not coming out, they took him away. He didn't hurt anyone, he hurt the status quo."
"This is about preserving the planet for people to survive," said Cori Redstone, who attended the event accompanied by two teenage sons. "Really, this sentence is unprecedented for an act of non-violent, peaceful protest."
DeChristopher was an economics major at the University of Utah when a BLM auction was held Dec. 19, 2008. He has said he initially went to the auction to join protesters outside of the downtown Salt Lake BLM offices, but he felt he had to do more.
During the course of the auction, after he registered as a bidder attesting he was there to participate in good faith, DeChristopher bid on 14 parcels for $1.8 million.
He told a BLM special agent he had no intention of paying for them. He subsequently was indicted on third-degree felony counts of violating an onshore oil and gas leasing act and making a false statement and was convicted after a weeklong trial in February.
Emotions also ran high Tuesday at the U.S. Attorney's Office following the sentencing when defense attorney Pat Shea interrupted a press conference with prosecutors. Shea challenged U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen as she was outlining the various factors Benson cited as part of his decision.
Shea wanted to know if Utah's top federal prosecutor had ever gone to jail and whether she knew prison would serve as a deterrent to others contemplating similar acts to those committed by DeChristopher.
"I believe it will serve as a deterrent," she responded.
Shea continued questioning her about why BLM agents who saw DeChristopher at the auction didn't stop the man from committing a crime and why the BLM wouldn't accept money that environmentalists had pooled together to pay what DeChristopher owed.
"Mr. Shea, are you here representing the media?" Christensen asked before adding, "I'm not going to engage in that sort of argument."
Shea was later asked to leave the office after reporters tried to conduct interviews with him in the same conference room. Outside the office, he said that he'd never had a client with such a pure motive in 35 years of practicing law.
"Mothers and fathers would be lucky if their sons had the kind of integrity Tim DeChristopher has," Shea said.
Prosecutor John Huber said they had asked for a significant sentence and felt the one Benson handed down "certainly qualifies."
"We find no fault with (Benson's) reasoning," Huber said. "This is a serious case that required a serious sentencing."
Contributing: Emiley Morgan, Ladd Brubaker
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