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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

DeChristopher and Noel: Double standard in Utah courts! Blatant destruction of public lands and theft of priceless protected artifacts receive no jail time in Utah, but harmlessly protest the wholesale theft of park lands by big oil, then no get out of jail free card for you! Judge Benson lets forger go free!

DeChristopher and Noel, a tale of two crimes

So Tim DeChristopher received a sentence of two years in federal prison for his bogus bids that disrupted a BLM auction for oil and gas leases that many environmentalists believed was illegal in the first place. And rabid anti-environmentalist activist Mike Noel has been vocal from the time DeChristopher was charged that he should do time for the criminal act.

But the lawmaker from Kanab hasn’t even received a ticket for his own civil disobedient act of defiance when he led a group of like-minded protesters on an ATV ride up a protected riverbed in southern Utah. Federal officials not only sat by and watched the law-breaking activity, they had videotapes of Noel “inciting” the vandalism.

The same U.S. Attorney’s Office that brought charges against DeChristopher did nothing against Noel and his posse.

It just goes to show that in Utah, some acts of defiance against controversial federal laws are more equal than others.
Another double standard? • Then there are the looters of protected artifacts on federal land in southern Utah who were arrested by the feds and made heroes by many southern Utah anti-federal government howlers, including Noel. I remember him equating the arrests to the actions of fascist government.
Many of those looters were motivated by greed, selling the valuable relics in a network some described as organized crime. But of the defendants who have been sentenced so far, none have gone to jail. They all have received probation and fines.

And the judge himself • “I’m not saying there isn’t a place for civil disobedience,” U.S. District Judge Dee Benson said when he sentenced DeChristopher to two years behind bars, “but it can’t be the order of the day.”
Compare that quote to Benson’s statements in 1994 when he sentenced former Emery County Attorney Mark Tanner for forging a client’s name on a power-of-attorney document in order to personally get $10,000 from the U.S. Justice Department that was intended for the client.

When Tanner gave a tearful apology to the court, his family and the residents of Emery County, Benson told him to stop beating himself up, and that he had been punished enough. Then he sentenced him to probation and a fine.

Tanner, who could have gotten five years in federal prison for his guilty plea, had represented a man whose $100,000 was seized by police officers believing it was drug money. When the Utah Supreme Court ruled the seizure was illegal, Tanner negotiated a settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, then forged his client’s name to give him authority to receive the money, and kept it without the client’s knowledge.

“What you did has some understandable elements, if you look at the whole picture,’’ Benson told Tanner. “I’m not condoning what you did, but don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Perhaps if DeChristopher would have just stolen $10,000 from somebody, the judge would have been more understanding.

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