Toomer’s Corner in Auburn looks a lot different than it did a few years back. The leafy canopy from iconic 80-year-old oak trees that shaded the corner of campus is gone, the result of a rabid University of Alabama fan, Harvey Updyke, who doused the roots with high-powered herbicide in 2011, and then called a Birmingham sports radio show to brag about the deed.
In time, people may forget what Toomer’s Corner once looked like festooned with streams of toilet paper following every Auburn win. They might even forget Harvey Updyke.
It appears Updyke is counting on that. But they haven’t forgotten yet.
Following his call to the radio show as “Al from Dadeville,” Updyke was identified, located, arrested and charged with criminal mischief, desecration of a venerated object and unlawful damage to a crop facility. He spent 70 days in jail in 2013 before pleading guilty and taking a deal offered by prosecutors. Part of the deal was Updyke’s agreement to pay almost $800,000 in restitution to Auburn University, which spent untold amounts in efforts to save the trees, which were ultimately removed.
That was six years ago. In that time, Updyke has paid less than $5,000 in restitution and often misses payments, according to Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes.
The courts have summoned Updyke to appear in an October hearing to explain himself. He was pulled back into court in 2017 for failure to pay; that judge threatened to put him back in jail.
“(Updyke) has made exactly two payments for a total of $200 in the past year,” Hughes told the Associated Press.
It’s unlikely that Updyke will ever be able to fully satisfy his debt, and jailing him would simply put an unnecessary burden on taxpayers. At the same time, his apparent disrespect for the court should disqualify him from leniency. The court should establish a workable plan with well-defined penalties for his failure to comply – and then enforce them.