Tim DeChristopher was a University of Utah student and had been studying the role of civil disobedience in historical social movements when, in December 2008, he became part of that history.
DeChristopher walked into a federal auction of oil-and-gas leases in Salt Lake City, represented himself as a bidder and received auction paddle No. 70. After watching for about 20 minutes, he ground the auction to a halt.
He bid on one parcel after another, winning 14 worth nearly $1.8 million, which he had neither the means nor the intention of paying for. Other bidders walked out, the proceedings were halted and DeChristopher soon enough found himself under arrest.
He was convicted in a jury trial on two federal counts — violating the leasing law and making a false statement (for signing a federal form saying he was bidding in good faith). DeChristopher finished his 21-month sentence in April.
DeChristopher, now 31, spoke in an interview during visit to Louisville last week, when he also appeared at a clean-energy rally sponsored by local environmental groups and participants in the Unitarian Universalist Association’s national general assembly.