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Activist Timothy DeChristopher to be sentenced July 26

SALT LAKE CITY — A new sentencing date has been set for environmental activist Timothy DeChristopher, who was convicted of two charges related to an oil and gas lease auction that he derailed.

DeChristopher had been slated to be sentenced this month on the two felony charges but instead will appear before U.S. District Judge Dee Benson at 3 p.m. on July 26.

He faces up to 10 years in prison, but U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen has said the maximum sentence will not be sought.

The economics graduate from the University of Utah was convicted earlier this year in connection with a Dec. 19, 2008, Salt Lake auction in which he posed as a bidder. During the event, DeChristopher won 14 parcels valued at $1.8 million, although he had no intention of paying for them.

He subsequently was charged with violating an onshore oil and gas leasing act and making a false statement. To compete as a bidder, DeChristopher had to fill out a form and acknowledge that he would be acting in good faith when he bid on the parcels of land.

DeChristopher has said he was moved to enter the auction and take a stand — leaving other protestors outside — because of his deep convictions that the country's pursuit of oil and gas development is putting the nation on a destructive path toward climate change.

In the months following his arrest and subsequent public controversy, DeChistopher has become a modern-day poster child for civil disobedience among many in the environmental movement. He and his following established Peace Uprising, an advocacy group affecting policy change through nonviolent means.

Despite the gathering of hundreds of supporters around the federal courthouse during his weeklong trial, a bevy of federal, state and local officers reported little to no problems with protestors.

Although his sentencing has been delayed until next month, supporters still plan a rally on DeChristopher's behalf Thursday across from the courthouse.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16