DeChristopher gets more time for ?necessity defense?

By By Rita Totten, Staff Writer

By Rita Totten, Staff Writer

A hearing to determine the validity of Tim DeChristopher’s “necessity defense” regarding his bogus bids on land leases last December concluded with U.S. District Judge Dee Benson postponing his decision on the matter.

At a federal land auction, DeChristopher, a senior in economics, intentionally made fraudulent bids on 14 land parcels to drive up the price and protect the land from the drill rigs of oil and gas companies. DeChristopher is facing criminal charges for winning 14 Bureau of Land Management parcels that he has publicly stated he never intended to pay for. He and his defense team intend to excuse DeChristopher from the criminal charges by arguing that he committed evil to prevent a greater evil: allowing oil and gas companies to further climate change, which is known as a necessity defense.

But Benson isn’t warming up to the idea.

“I am reluctant to open this courtroom, my courtroom, to a lengthy hearing for global warming in relation to this very simple and straightforward criminal action,” Benson said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a motion to deny DeChristopher’s defense in May. The defense and the prosecution met in federal court Friday morning to argue whether DeChristopher should be allowed to use it in a jury trial.

After hearing both sides, Benson granted the defense 30 days to present written or taped testimony from scientists or legal experts as evidence to support DeChristopher’s claim that he was protecting land from climate change and detrimental environmental impacts by submitting false bids on federal land parcels.

Defense attorney Ron Yengich said DeChristopher should be entitled to present the defense he feels appropriate.

“It’s about whether or not you can stop something that is a greater evil,” Yengich said.
DeChristopher said he acted the way he did because he felt there were no alternative legal options available.

Pat Shea, DeChristopher’s defense attorney, said the judge’s decision means at least the “necessary evil” defense has not been ruled invalid, which was their fear.

“We had a whole loaf of bread and now we have a third of a loaf,” Shea said. “At least we still have bread.”

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