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Environmentalist Sentenced to 2 Years in Jail for Pranking Oil Companies

Jul 27, 2011

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher has been sentenced to a two years in jail on felony charges for an ultimately harmless prank he pulled on oil companies in 2009.

 Environmentalist Sentenced to 2 Years in Jail for Pranking Oil Companies

Meanwhile, not a single BP executive or crooked banker who decimated public pensions by placing them in toxic investments they themselves were betting against has ever faced felony prosecution. What’s wrong with this picture?

The Huffington Post reports that DeChristopher’s crime was that he attended a federal auction of Utah wild land that the Bush administration was selling to oil and gas companies.

Once inside, DeChristopher bid aggressively and won 22,000 acres worth of wildlife reserve, thereby taking it off the table for the energy companies. Once the auction was over DeChristopher revealed he didn’t actually have the money to pay for his bid.

Ultimately, this didn’t make the land unsellable to energy companies—it simply disrupted an auction. For this, DeChristopher was convicted on two felony charges and yesterday sentenced to two years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

What’s more, in DeChristopher’s trial it appears the US District Judge skewed the standard mores of the American legal system to pursue especially harsh treatment for him.

Even though motive is considered an essential part of the value of a crime, in this particular case Judge Dee Benson decided that motive could not be considered by the jury in the case. “We’re not here about why he did it,” Judge Benson said, “We’re here about whether he did it.”

Refusing to hear motive in a trial is highly unusual. In this case Judge Benson specifically prohibited the defense attorney from explaining to the jury that DeChristopher “saw the auction as both illegal and contributing to the ‘exacerbation of global warming and climate change.’”

Meanwhile, none of the BP executives, including former CEO Tony Hayward, who presided over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which caused irrevocable personal and environmental damage, have ever been prosecuted for a felony. Nor have the corrupt financial titans who decimated the savings of ordinary Americans with investments they themselves were betting against.

It was recently reported that JP Morgan was responsible for investing public pension funds in an Alabama county into such toxic assets that the fund had been basically destroyed and 1,000 workers were laid off. These are the same kinds of toxic assets investment banks made ungodly amounts betting against.

Not one BP executive or corrupt banker will ever see the inside of a jail. And yet, for pranking oil companies to make his point, Tim DeChristopher gets two years.

Why? Because those are our priorities. Corporate well-being will always take precedence over that of individual or planetary well-being.

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