According to The Salt Lake Tribune, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson confirmed the hearing’s delay on Thursday but didn’t specify the new date for the sentencing. The website for the activist group Peaceful Uprising, which has planned protests outside the Federal Courthouse next Thursday, posted that the new hearing will be held on July 26.
Last March, a 12-member jury convicted DeChristopher on two felonies for placing false bids in a 2008 Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction. He falsely bid $1.8 million for parcels of land near Arches and Canyonlands national parks as well as drove up bidding on others, with no intention of paying. DeChristopher, who was bidder No. 70 at the auction, faces up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $750,000.
Environmentalists believe that the oil and gas lease auction, which was held in December, was a last minute, hurried effort to by the Bush Administration to offer up lands to oil and gas companies before the Obama Administration took office. Indeed, Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar immediately shelved the lease parcels in February 2009 and scolded the Bush Administration for rushing reviews of disputed sites so close to national treasures like Arches, Canyonlands and Dinosaur National Monument.
Despite Salazar’s decision to take the contested lease parcels off the table, DeChristopher was indicted on April 1, 2009, for violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act. At DeChristopher’s federal trial, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson refused to allow DeChristopher to argue that he tried to sabotage the auction in an act of civil disobedience aimed at drawing attention to the issue of climate change.
According to Peaceful Uprising, while the sentencing has been delayed, its planned “nationwide solidarity actions” will continue on June 23.