SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah environmental activist has been sentenced to two years in prison for derailing a 2008 government auction of oil and gas leases near two national parks.
Tim DeChristopher was convicted of two felony counts of interfering with and making false representations at a government auction in March. He was sentenced to three years of probation, fined $10,000 and taken into custody immediately.
The maximum sentence was 10 years in prison.
The 29-year-old former wilderness guide is the first person to be prosecuted for failing to make good on bids at a lease auction of Utah public lands. He ran up bids on 13 parcels totaling more than 22,000 acres near Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
Protesters cheered as he and his lawyer crossed a plaza to enter the courthouse, applauding and beating loudly on drums.
DeChristopher said he does not regret what he did, adding that it was "an act of civil disobedience. It's a conscious choice."
The case has elevated him to folk hero status. The protest rally -- complete with songs from Peter Yarrow, of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary -- was organized at the plaza by DeChristopher's nonprofit group, Peaceful Uprising.
Participants wore orange sashes as a show of solidarity, and performed protest songs and staged public theater with oversized puppets of wildlife and DeChristopher. Many said they hoped DeChristopher would be given community service in lieu of prison time.
A University of Utah economics student at the time of the bids, DeChristopher offered to cover the bill with an Internet fundraising campaign, but the government refused to accept any of the money.
DeChristopher has never denied his crimes.