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SALT LAKE CITY — Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher is officially appealing his conviction and two year-prison sentence handed to him last week by federal judge Dee Benson.

DeChristopher, 30, was convicted earlier this year of two third-degree felonies stemming from deliberately disrupting an oil and gas lease auction in December of 2008.

Initially, DeChristopher went to the downtown Salt Lake City offices of the Bureau of Land Management to join other environmentalists in their protest of the auction. Once there, however, he went inside and registered as a bidder, offering $1.8 million on 14 parcels of land.

He has since said he never intended to pay for the parcels, but only to drive up the price of the land being "given away" by the government to oil and gas companies.

The case was turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office for review and in April of 2009, he was charged with violation of the onshore gas and oil leasing act and making a false statement. He was convicted after a weeklong jury trial.

His attorneys sought to raise the necessity defense on behalf of DeChristopher, arguing he acted to right a wrong and was forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. Such a defense has been raised to explain criminal action, such as a prisoner escaping a burning prison or burglarizing a cabin in the woods to steal food for survival.

In DeChristopher's case, his team wanted to be able to air his views on the climate change crisis as explanation for his actions. Benson rejected that, asserting any such defense would turn his courtroom into a debate over global warming.

Being able to raise such a defense is part of the basis for the appeal.

Email:aodonoghue@ksl.com

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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