Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Accused tree-poisoner Harvey Updyke has rejected a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for 13 years and -- maybe more importantly where Updyke is concerned -- prohibited him from ever attending another Alabama sporting event.
ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported Friday that Updyke declined the plea deal "earlier this month." Updyke is scheduled to go to trial for poisoning Auburn's beloved Toomer's Corner oak trees in the Lee County (Ala.) Circuit Court March 5, but current Updyke attorney Everett Wess has requested a delay in the trial, a change of venue, and a recusal from the presiding judge.
Wess is asking that the trial be moved out of Auburn and that judge Jacob Walker III step down over his participation in an Auburn season ticket pool.
Updyke was indicted last May on two felony counts of criminal mischief, two misdemeanor counts of desecrating a venerable object and two more felony counts of an Alabama law that prohibits vandalizing or stealing any property on or from an animal or crop facility. Updyke could face as much as 42 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Though Updyke has maintained his innocence, he has also admitted to being "Al from Dadeville," the Paul Finebaum radio show caller who boasted he had poisoned the oaks in late December 2010. Updyke has since called into the show multiple times to apologize for his actions, leading to a break with his fourth attorney, Glennon Threatt.
The oaks are not expected to survive, forcing Auburn to search for options to keep the traditional rolling of Toomer's Corner intact. The most likely approach, as recommended this week by the Committee to Determine the Future of Rolling Toomer’s Corner, will be for the oaks to be replaced by similar-sized trees once the chosen saplings have grown large enough, and for a temporary object or objects -- like some kind of wire structure -- to be used as a temporary solution until the trees are ready.
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