Poisioner Of Auburn’s Toomer’s Oaks Ordered To Pay $500 A Month . . . For 132 Years

UpdykeWe previously discussed the outrageous act of Harvey Updyke who poisoned the famous “Toomer’s Oaks” because he is an Alabama fan. He has now been ordered to pay $796,731.98 in restitution to the university. He will be allowed to pay $500 a month . . . for 132 years.

Updyke pleaded guilty to poisoning the trees after the Iron Bowl in 2010. He will be required to also pay $2,000 in legal fees and $16,500 in court costs.

He was previously sentenced to three years with at least six months in jail and spend five years on supervised probation for the Class C felony. He has been credited with 104 days already served. I actually view a six month jailing to be light given the destruction of these historic trees and the poisoning of the area. At the time, he posted a statement under a false name stating ”OK, let me tell you what I did the weekend after the Iron Bowl,” ‘Al from Dadeville’ told Finebaum on air. “I went to Auburn, Alabama, because I live 30 miles away and I poisoned the two Toomer’s trees. I put Spike80DF in ‘em. … They’re not dead yet, but they definitely will die.” He then signed off with “Roll Damn Tide.”

Once again, people like this truly mystify me. He clearly thought it was funny to kill these old trees and thought nothing about depravity of his actions. It is chilling to think of how many people like this are walking around society, as subject that we recently discussed with regard to people laughing and cheering as a man burned at a public concert. It seems to be the same phenomenon of people raised without basic sense of humanity or decency.

His lawyer says that Updyke had only $631 to his name at the time of the crime and was on Medicaid and Social Security disability. Yet, he had the money to buy Tebuthiuron to destroy these magnificent trees. His counsel insisted that he is now indigent but the court insisted that he get a job.

It is not clear if the court is prepared to put Updyke back in jail if he fails to get a job or make the payments. That could be the next fight, though it would take Auburn demanding such action.

Source: AO

33 thoughts on “Poisioner Of Auburn’s Toomer’s Oaks Ordered To Pay $500 A Month . . . For 132 Years”

  1. There goes his Social Security Check. It seems a bit strange that two trees cost over $700K. He will probably get Section 8 housing so that the federal government subsidy will cover his restitution payments. He will not notice any difference in his paltry income. In the end, it is the government entitlements that pays the university, the court, and the lawyers for this man’s stupid actions. It is the American system in action, the best legal system that money can buy.

  2. In my state at least, a person can’t be held accountable for the restitution unless the DA/probation can prove that the person actually had the financial wherewithal to do so. I wouldn’t imagine the state/complaining witness/victim compensation board will be seeing a lot of this money.

  3. Let him be spiked with polonium… surely he too will die and see it coming unavoidably.

  4. I agree with Juliet on this one. I do not see now this “restitution” order could survive an appeal.

  5. Here’s my take on the sentence. First of all, it will never be carried out. The sentence, IMHO, was intended to serve two purposes. First of all, it is a bit of grandstanding on the part of judge and prosecutor as a public relations move. Second, they wanted to send a message to anyone who might have some jackass idea for a similar bit of vandalism.

    On the other hand, by overdoing it this much, they just made themselves look silly and petty. Reminds me of those thousand year sentences some judges hand down from time to time.

  6. Juliet, AY, and, Mike,

    I don’t believe there’s anything excessive about this sentence whatsoever. If anything, the excessiveness is on the part the jerk who herbicided the trees.

    Trees are an important part the landscape; they can add significant value to property, and oaks, in particular, are a very valuable species because their distinctive growing habit, or appearance, lends tremendous four-season visual interest. Add to that the symbolic value of these trees had to the school, and ipso facto, you do the math.

    Not only do trees affect property values, they perform services like summer cooling, air filtration, and noise abatement. It’s a good bet these oaks were native, and as such, would have supported a range of wildlife, as well, something non-native plants don’t do effectively. Like birds? Plant natives.

    Oaks are long-lived and like any long-lived plant, they are slow-growing. Not only could the university have expected to enjoy those trees for many, if not hundreds, of years, it will take at least couple generations before any newly transplanted oaks begin to throw an approximate amount of shade provided by those old trees. And if someone’s trying to so something sentimental like grow new trees from nuts off the old ones, it’ll take the better part of a hundred years to replace the parents.

    And don’t overlook mitigation costs like soil removal. Tebuthiuron persists in the soil for years, killing all the surrounding vegetation. Do you know how much it costs to remove all that affected soil and replace it? Neither do I, but it ain’t cheap. And what do you do with all that contaminated soil.

    Aside from the value destroyed by this jerk, an important aspect of his sentence lies in the deterrence factor society gains from it. The fact that we’re reading about his punishment on this blog is proof of the severity’s newsworthiness. In addition to giving society its rightful pound of flesh, maybe some other bozo will be given pause. Ok, maybe they just won’t brag about it online, but the severity is still justified as a cautionary message to idiots.

    Besides, from the looks of this guy, the school will be lucky to get $5000 before he croaks. And the question I have is, did he even go to college, much less Auburn? Why does he care so much?

    As a homeowner, I care about of the value of trees to streetscape in my neighborhood. As an ecologist, I despair that more people aren’t aware of the importance of plants and the role they play in the ecosystem and the many economically valuable services the provide for society. I realize people are going to react more sympathetically to harm caused to a deer or a dog, and I share those feelings, but I extend my concern to plants, too.

    I would encourage anyone, especially the office-bound, to grab a field guide of their local flora, go out, identify a plant – any plant – and figure out why it’s growing where it’s growing (and just as significantly, why it doesn’t where it isn’t). It’s a great source of exercise and fantastic fun for kids. Maybe then, you’ll understand why killing a mighty oak is no small thing.

    1. I agree with you on all those good tree things, and I was truly astounded by the man’s behavior. But to give a person what amounts to a life sentence over it just seems insane to me.

  7. Kill an old tree at Auburn get huge fine. Ruin a man’s life, as a judge, in Williamson County, TX get a ten day sentence and a $100 fine. The inconsistency boggles the mind.

  8. He couldn’t just carve something offensive on the tree. Not when he could kill them. Also eliminated embarrassing spelling errors.

  9. Getting criminals to pay for their deeds is the best sentence possible if you can make it happen. In jail, you pay for their board with taxes. We could run this country on less than 5% sales tax & no other taxes whatsoever. All we need is a standing army & 10% of the cops we have now.

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