German man accused of torching A.U. oak pleads guilty and offers apology
By: Dorothy Sherman
LEE COUNTY, ALABAMA – Thursday could’ve been Jochen Wiest’s final walk into a Lee County Courtroom as the German man pleaded guilty to criminal mischief first degree for setting fire to one of Auburn University’s oak trees.
In a hearing he not only pleaded, but he also gave an apology.
“I’m sorry,” Wiest said.
“He did apologize and that was good,” Chance Corbett with Auburn University’s Public Safety and Security department said.
With a translator and attorney at his side, Lee County District Attorney Jessica Ventiere said Wiest admitted to lighting the toilet paper on fire that moment was captured on video.
She said he also admitted he was very intoxicated at the time when the incident happened last September.
Ventiere also added it’s very difficult to compare Wiest’s actions to the actions of Auburn University oak trees poisoner Harvey Updyke.
“I mean your talking about apples and unicorns. So, Updyke was a malicious damaging to property. Mister Wiest was someone from Germany who didn’t really 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,” Ventiere said.
Wiest was sentenced to three year suspended, five-year probation, will have to pay court and other fines. He has already paid $20,807 in restitution to cover damage costs for Auburn University.
“We’re glad that today happened,” Wiest’s attorney Margaret Brown said.
As far as Wiest’s passport, Ventier said she’s filing paperwork to make sure he gets it back.
Auburn University’s Director of Public Affairs Brian Keeter 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.”