I Respond to a Tim DeChristopher Defender
By Ken K. Gourdin
Note: Tim DeChristopher has become a cause celebre in the evironmentalist world for bidding fraudulently on several oil and gas leases on parcels offered by the United States Bureau of Land Management in order to deter legitimate bidders by artificially inflating the prices of the parcels. The auction later was invalidated in court. In response to a letter to the editor from Scott Carrier, who argued that the auction’s invalidation renders DeChristopher’s actions “no harm, no foul” (my phrase), I wrote the following letter to the editor which appeared in the June 24, 2011 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune.
Punish false bidder
In “Bidder harmed no one” (Forum, June 21), Scott Carrier says that Tim DeChristopher, who fraudulently bid for oil and gas leases at a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2008, harmed no one because the auction was later invalidated in court. Thus, DeChristopher should not be imprisoned.
Otherwise, DeChristopher seems to be a law-abiding citizen for whom this is a first offense, so he is unlikely to face incarceration in any event.
I take issue with Carrier’s reasoning. Using his logic, bank robbers and embezzlers who pay restitution ultimately harm no one, so they should not be punished harshly.
However, Carrier ignores the fact that the justice system aims not only to punish illegality, but also to deter it. While DeChristopher himself may be unlikely to reoffend, letting him off with too light a punishment would do nothing to deter future fraudulent bidding by others.
Ken K. Gourdin,