DeChristopher still under investigation

By Jed Layton, Asst. News Editor

For a moment, Tim DeChristopher thought he was off the hook.

DeChristopher, a senior in economics, is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for placing fraudulent bids in a Bureau of Land Management auction in December. On Wednesday, DeChristopher read an article in the Deseret News that reported that U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar might review whether or not to pardon him, he said.

“I saw the article and was not sure if I was still going to be investigated,” he said. “But I was skeptical.”

The article said Salazar is thinking about cutting short the investigation on DeChristopher. DeChristopher placed phony bids in an attempt to stop oil companies from obtaining oil and gas rights in Southern Utah. DeChristopher won 13 bids, which were worth $1.7 million, and placed bids on more than a dozen other parcels of land. He admitted to reporters and investigators that he had no intention of paying for the land bids.

The Deseret News quoted Salazar as saying, “It (prosecution of DeChristopher) is something we have on our radar screen, and no decision has been made.”

However, DeChristopher and Frank Quimby, a spokesman for the Department of the Interior, both said the Deseret News article was inaccurate.

Quimby said Salazar was addressing a media roundtable answering a variety of questions about his plans as head of the Department of the Interior.

A question about DeChristopher prompted Salazar to respond in a vague manner because the Department of the Interior has no role in investigations, he said.

“He said he would take a look at it, meaning he would examine what our relationship is to it,” Quimby said. “He did not say or intend to say that he would review whether or not to prosecute.”

Quimby said the Department of the Interior has no authority to determine prosecution.

“That is completely up to the attorney general’s office in Utah,” he said.

DeChristopher said a lawyer told him he would still be under investigation.

No charges have been filed against DeChristopher, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Our investigation is still ongoing, nothing has changed,” she said.

DeChristopher said he is raising support for environmental activism while waiting for the investigation’s results. He and other Utah activists have started the nonprofit organization Peaceful Uprising to encourage advocacy.

“We seek to train and support those who take similar actions as I did and take a similar stand in the defense of our future,” he said.

DeChristopher has already raised more than $110,000 to pay for the initial down payment on the bids, but he is not sure if the BLM will accept his payment.

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Erik Daenitz

– Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher encourages students to take place in Powershift ?09 on Monday night in the Union Theater. Powershift gives students the opportunity to lobby lawmakers for environmental change in Washington D.C. at the end of the month.