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Tim DeChristopher's trial in bogus BLM bidding is delayed

SALT LAKE CITY — The trial of accused bogus bidder Tim DeChristopher has been postponed after defense attorneys filed a motion Tuesday asking for evidence to prove his claims that he is being treated differently from other people who have committed similar crimes.

DeChristopher was indicted last year on charges of providing a false statement and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act for his actions during an auction held by the Bureau of Land Management in 2008. DeChristopher is accused of bidding on and winning 14 parcels of land worth $1.7 million that he never intended to pay for.

A three-day trial was slated to begin March 15 before U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, but has now been postponed to allow for a motion hearing, said U.S. Attorney for Utah spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch. She said a new trial date will be set pending the resolution of the hearing.

The 27-year-old University of Utah student has filed a motion alleging that "the government is treating (him) differently from similarly situated people who have failed to follow through on bids placed on oil and gas leases but who have not been arrested or referred for prosecution," the motion states.

To remedy this alleged discrimination, DeChristopher is asking for a court order that will require prosecutors to produce all evidence they have on policies related to the offense DeChristopher is accused of. He is also asking for all information about him that may have been exchanged between the Department of Justice, BLM and the Department of the Interior.

Prosecutors filed a motion opposing the release, stating that they have already provided DeChristopher with "full discovery." They say he has only alleged discrimination without proving there was any.

They also defend their decision to prosecute, saying there have been seven bogus bidders in the past five years. Of those, DeChristopher was the only person to do so in Utah. He was one of only two to be classified by the Department of the Interior as a "bad-faith" bidder. Prosecutors say DeChristopher "purchased more parcels and owed more money to the government than any of the other bid-walkers."

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com