Man who set Toomer’s Oak tree in September on fire pleads guilty

LEE COUNTY, Ala.- Jochen Wiest, the man charged with lighting one of the Toomer’s Oaks on fire after Auburn beat LSU in September plead guilty to criminal mischief in the first degree on Thursday.

Wiest was given a 36-month suspended sentence, ordered to pay $20,807 in restitution to Auburn University, a $1,000, a trespassing ban from the university and other court costs.

Wiest will not serve any time in prison unless he violates his probation. Assistant District Attorney, Jessica Ventiere said this is very common for someone who does not have any prior felony convictions. She added that criminal mischief is a Class C Felony and can be punished with a minimum sentence of one year and a day up to 10 years and up to a $15,000 fine.

When Wiest was first charged, he also had a public intoxication charge and a misdemeanor of desecrating a venerable object. Since Wiest pleaded guilty to a felony charge, those other charges were dropped. His attorney Margaret Brown said Wiest intends to return home to Germany.

The $20,807 would cover the cost if a replacement tree is needed. At Wiest’s hearing back in late-December, Brown gave the court a cashier’s check from Wiest for $23,157 plus the $3,500 bond he has paid brings his total payment to $26,657. Any money that has not been used will be returned back to Wiest.

During the hearing, Wiest admitted to lighting the toilet paper on fire that September night. Towards the end, Judge Jacob Walker asked if there were any further statements from either party, and Wiest replied, “I’m sorry.”

Ventiere said she felt the sorry was sincere and that she does not hear many people say they are sorry in the courtroom. Ventiere went onto add that all parties involved were satisfied with how things finished in the case. She went onto add that she hopes nobody touches the trees again.

“Everybody is thinking about Harvey Updyke especially with the stuff that’s been in the news and how it compares to Jochen Wiest,” Ventiere said. “The only thing that I can say is comparing Updyke and Wiest is a greater difference than apples and oranges. You’re talking about apples and unicorns. Updyke was a malicious damaging to property. Mr. Wiest was somebody from Germany who didn’t understand what he was doing. He was very intoxicated at the time, damaged the property, and has essentially from the beginning been trying to claim responsibility for this, making it known, entering his guilty plea, making it right, and he’s already paid full restitution.”

Brown told News 3 as her and her client were walking out of court, “We’re glad today happened.”

Auburn University released the following statement:

“Our goal is returning the rolling tradition to the Auburn family as quickly as possible. The State accepted their offer of a guilty plea, and that puts this issue behind us and allows us to move forward with full replacement funds in hand.”



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