published Friday, December 13th, 2013

Alabama fan seeks break in Auburn tree case

A bare and dying oak tree stands at the entrance to Auburn University at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Ala., in this file photo. Auburn cut down the trees in the spring of 2013.
A bare and dying oak tree stands at the entrance to Auburn University at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Ala., in this file photo. Auburn cut down the trees in the spring of 2013.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

AUBURN, Ala. — The University of Alabama fan who pleaded guilty to poisoning Auburn University's landmark oak trees asked a judge to reduce his $500-a-month restitution payments to the school, saying he can't afford them.

Harvey Updyke filed court documents this week asking the court to reduce the payments to only $50 a month instead. At that rate, it would take the 65-year-old Updyke about 1,328 years to pay off the total of $796,731.

Circuit Judge Jacob A. Walker III gave prosecutors a month to respond to the request by Updyke, who wants a hearing before any payments begin.

Updyke pleaded guilty to poisoning the Toomer's Corner trees during Auburn's national championship run in 2010. He served about six months in jail and now lives in Louisiana.

The retired Texas state trooper filed a court document stating his monthly gross income is $3,030, and the retiree lists monthly expenses of nearly $2,800. His largest expense is $825 a month for rent or mortgage payments.

Updyke, whose legal expenses were funded by taxpayers after a court granted his indigent status, said the $500 monthly restitution payment will impose a financial hardship and asked the judge to reduce it since keeping up with the payments is among the conditions of his probation.

The size of the payment "will not substantially affect the victim given the amount of the total restitution and the relative finances of the defendant and victim," wrote Margaret Brown, a lawyer for Updyke.

A financial statement signed by Updyke listed his only assets as $1,000 worth of personal property, a wedding ring, two televisions and a computer.

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