Photo by David Newkirk

Today was Day 3 of the trial of Tim DeChristopher, who two years years ago bravely disrupted a federal auction — stopping oil and gas companies from being able to bid on, drill through, and burn the buried fossil fuels from over 20,000 acres of Utah’s majestic and pristine public lands.

This afternoon, Tim DeChristopher took the stand for the first time. His testimony is both powerful, articulate, and the story that unfolds holds inspiration for us all.

Below are highlights of an unofficial transcript, documented by reporters with the Salt City Lake Tribune.

Yengich (Defendant’s Lawyer): Tell the members of the jury where you were born and where you were raised?
DeChristopher: I was born in West Virginia and grew up mainly in Pittsburgh, Pa. That’s where I graduated from high school.

Yengich: I wanted to talk a little about … tell us just simply about your background and interests.
DeChristopher: Varied background. I took five years off at school. I originally started at Arizona State. I worked with teens in the wilderness in the Ozarks and then here in Utah. I’ve always been fairly concerned about environmental issues.

Yengich: I want to go to December 19, 2008. Do you remember that day?
DeChristopher: I remember it very well.

Yengich: The day before were you aware of any demonstration or protest at the Bureau of Land Management?
DeChristopher: Yes, I’d gotten several e-mails and notices about demonstrations.

Yengich: That day before, the 18th, had you thought about that protest at all?
DeChristopher: I’d heard quite a bit about the auction in question, both through newspapers, classes and e-mails. So I understood why the protest was taking place. I was aware there were quite a few legitimate concerns about whether the government was following its own procedures.

Yengich: What were you intending to go there for?
DeChristopher: I was intending to go there to join the protest and in stating my disagreement with these auctions.

Yengich: Did you have something else to do on the 19th?
DeChristopher: Yes, I had a final exam that morning in current economic problems.
Yengich: What type of exam?
DeChristopher: It was an essay exam.
Yengich: Did you have a thought of going to the demonstration and protest after the exam?
DeChristopher: Yes, I did. (Inaudible) I believed I had heard the demonstration was going to start at 9:30. But my final exam ran from 8 to 10 so I knew that I’d be late.

Yengich: Now at that point had you formulated in your mind any plan?
DeChristopher: No, nothing specific.

Yengich: What were you intending to go there for?
DeChristopher: I was intending to go there to join the protest and in stating my disagreement with these auctions.

Yengich: Did you take your exam?
DeChristopher: Yes, I did.
Yengich: How did you do on it?
DeChristopher: I got an A.

Yengich: Did you then go to the BLM office?
DeChristopher: I went directly from the U. to the auction.
Yengich: What did you observe first and what did you do?
DeChristopher: I observed the protesters that were walking back and forth on the sidewalk. I briefly spoke to a couple of them before going in.
Yengich: Did you walk in the protest line?
DeChristopher: No, basically just to get from one side of the protest line to the other.
Yengich: Why is it you went inside the building?
DeChristopher: That morning I had realized that the protest wasn’t really going to have much of an impact, and this auction deserved more than just holding a sign. I wanted to go inside and take stronger action to really raise a red flag as to what was going on there.

Yengich: So you went inside the door. What did you do when you went inside the door of the auction?
DeChristopher: A security guard asked me if I was there for the auction, and I said yes. He directed me to the end of the table, where a BLM official asked me if I was there to be a bidder. I said yes.

Yengich: Had you been to any auction before?
DeChristopher: No.
Yengich: Were you requested to sit in any particular place?
DeChristopher: I observed briefly from the back of the room and sat down.

Yengich: In that regard, what’s the first thing you remember happening as you sat down?
DeChristopher: I remember just observing the auction for a moment.
Yengich: What did you do at that point?
DeChristopher: I spent a while looking around the room and watching the auction.

Yengich: While you were looking around the room did you have any thought process of what you might do?
DeChristopher: My intent was to raise a red flag and hopefully bring enough attention that the government would reconsider their actions.

DeChristopher: Once I saw the way the auction was operating, I realized with the bid card I was given there was an opportunity for me to cause enough of a delay for the new [Obama] administration to come in and reconsider the auction as they had already indicated in the paper.
Yengich: I admit that last part was inadmissible.
DeChristopher: I had some idea that it was a price per acre and they were going for $2 or $10 per acre. I understood, to some extent.
Yengich: What was your intention at that point?
DeChristopher: My intention was to raise the prices closer to a fair-market value for that land.
Yengich: How long did it take before you actually won a bid?
DeChristopher: It was maybe 20 minutes.

Yengich: You were there. Did you see someone other than Mr. Boardman that you knew there?
DeChristopher: Yes, her name was Christa Bowers. She was a woman I knew from my church.
Yengich: Was there a time you turned around and looked around the room?
DeChristopher: I looked at her several times.
Yengich: Did you have any interaction with her?
DeChristopher: Yes.
Yengich: Let me ask you, what was Mrs. Bowers doing at that time?
DeChristopher: She was crying.
Yengich: When you observed her, what did you do?
DeChristopher: I was certainly moved by the fact that she was crying and felt like the auction and the–
Yengich: I’m going to stop you right there. … Did you believe that she was crying as a result of the auction?
DeChristopher: Yes.
Yengich: What action did you take in that regard?
DeChristopher: At that moment, I made the decision that I had to do more to take a stand a stand in the way of the auction.

Yengich: What was that stand that you took?
DeChristopher: I started winning parcels.

Yengich: How long did that go on that you were winning parcels?
DeChristopher: Fifteen to 20 minutes.

Yengich: There were other people bidding as well?
DeChristopher: Correct.
Yengich: There are some bids you win and some you don’t?
DeChristopher: Correct.
Yengich: What formulated in your mind for what you would or would not bid on?
DeChristopher: I don’t know that there were any specific reasons I was bidding on some or not others.

Yengich: Is it fair to say the whole thing was a spur-of-the-moment idea?
DeChristopher: Yes.

Yengich: Thank you. Did there come a time, when a gentleman, Agent Love, came to see you?
DeChristopher: Yes.
Yengich: Can you tell us what occurred then and what you did and how you reacted to Agent Love?
DeChristopher: Once they stopped the auction, the agent came to me and showed his badge and said, ‘Can we talk outside?’ I said yes.

Yengich: Did you attempt to be a gentleman with Agent Love?
DeChristopher: Yes.
Yengich: Was he, with you?
DeChristopher: Yes, he was.

Yengich: At any time during that period did he ever tell you that you had an opportunity to pay on the bids that you had won?
DeChristopher: When he first drew me out of the room, he showed me the form of the parcels I had won and pointed to the figure at the bottom of the page and indicated I owed $45,000 and some change that day. I said I do not have the ability to pay for that.

Yengich: Did he ask you if what you bid was or was not a plan or if it was something you did on a spur of the moment?
DeChristopher: Yes.
Yengich: What did you tell him?
DeChristopher: I told him it was not planned.

Yengich: Did he ask you questions about your intent and purpose?
DeChristopher: Yes, he did.
Yengich: And your answers to that related to (inaudible)?
DeChristopher: Yes, but I also explained to him that my intent was to draw attention to what was going on in the auction and give the government an opportunity to reconsider.

Yengich: [I want to ] talk about your state of mind. Were you afraid?
DeChristopher: Yes.

–Prosecutor Scott Romney cross examination–

Romney: When you woke up that day, you didn’t have plans to go to the auction — go inside the auction?
DeChristopher: Correct.

Romney: Do you recall an interview you did with Brooke Jarvis of Yes magazine?
DeChristopher: Yes.

Romney: In that interview, you spoke about your intention that day. Isn’t it true you said, you know there were other activists at the auction who would have been willing to take the same risk if they had seen the opportunity.
DeChristopher: I think that had to do with my intention. I was there to stop that auction, even though I didn’t have a specific plan. I felt I could be powerful enough to stop it. And I think that mind-set was powerful enough to stop it. I believe the context was regarding the commitment I had been building up over the course of 2008.

Read the full version of today’s court transcript at the Salt Lake City Tribune.

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