The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

March 23, 2013

Updyke receives 3 years for Auburn tree poisoning

— OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama fan who poisoned the iconic Toomer's Corner oak trees at rival Auburn has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Harvey Updyke Jr. pleaded guilty on Friday to criminal damage of an agricultural facility. The sentence requires him to serve 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.

Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob A. Walker III also fined the former Texas state trooper $1,000. The probation terms include a 7 p.m. curfew and prohibit Updyke from going onto Auburn's campus or attending a college sporting event.

Auburn fans traditionally gather at Toomer's Corner to celebrate victories, and the case further highlighted the emotions in the year-round in-state rivalry during the two-plus years since Updyke was arrested.

"We have a significant number of violent felonies awaiting trial in Lee County and I could not in good conscience justify financing a three-week trial merely to arrive at no better a resolution," Lee County District Attorney Robbie Treese said in a statement.

Defense attorneys Margaret Brown and Andrew Stanley did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday evening.

Updyke, 64, had pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to charges of poisoning the trees during Auburn's successful bid for the national championship in the 2010 football season that included the biggest comeback in Iron Bowl history.

Updyke had been charged with criminal mischief, desecrating a venerated object and damaging agriculture. His bond was revoked because of his September arrest after allegedly making a threatening remark to workers at a Lowe's store in Hammond, La., but lawyers contended he did nothing wrong.

As a result of Updyke's plea Friday, prosecutors will not pursue those charges, according to court documents.

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