Updyke preliminary hearing canceled


The preliminary hearing for Harvey Updyke, the man accused of poisoning the Toomer's oaks, originally scheduled for March 2, has been canceled.

The motion to cancel the hearing was filed in conjunction with the withdrawal of Updyke's third attorney, Jerry Blevins.

Updyke's fourth attorney, Glennon Threatt, submitted his notice of appearance Feb. 22.

Because of the high probability of a majority of the jury pool in Lee County having affiliations with the University, Threatt said he is considering applying for a change of venue.

"At the very least, if I call up 100 jurors from Lee County and 60 of them have relationships with the University, then what that does is it shrinks the diversity of the jury pool, resulting in a jury that may not be adequately representative of the community," Threatt said.

However, Threatt said he is still discussing the case with District Attorney Robbie Treese.

"I wouldn't be talking with him in good faith if I had already decided that we were going to seek a change of venue," Threatt said.

As the case currently stands, Threatt said the preliminary hearing, originally scheduled for March 2, will most likely be held sometime in mid-April.

From there, the case will be heard by the grand jury sometime in May, and if an indictment is returned, the pretrial will probably be held in June.

If convicted of criminal mischief in relation to the Toomer's oak poisonings, Updyke, 62, could face up to 10 years in prison.

Threatt said there may be additional state or federal charges filed against Updyke.

Threatt said he thinks the state will also pursue restitution, which means if Updyke is convicted, he would have to pay the cost of the University's efforts to save the trees.

Although Updyke admits he called into the Paul Finebaum show and claimed that he poisoned the trees, Threatt said he told the Auburn Police Division he was innocent.

"He told the police that he didn't do it," Threatt said. "And so far, we've entered a plea of not guilty, so that's where we are right now."

Threatt said he is not considering an insanity plea.

"A person can plead not guilty by reason of insanity, and that happens in a microscopic portion of less than 1 percent of cases because the standard is very, very high, and it usually deals with people that are completely delusional and out of touch with reality, and he's clearly not even near that standard," Threatt said.

Threatt said Updyke was relieved to get out of jail on a $50,000 bond.

"For anybody to be in jail is traumatic, but certainly for a 62-year-old man it's an unpleasant experience," Threatt said. "He has multiple medications for various ailments he has, and he's back on his medication now, so he feels a lot better."

Updyke is a former state trooper, a father and a grandfather, and Threatt said he hopes people take those parts of his life into consideration before passing judgment on Updyke.

"I would just ask people not to judge a person by the worst moment of the worst day of our lives," Threatt said. "He's a guy who almost lost his life in the line of duty as a law enforcement officer, and that was a moment in one day of his life as well.

"So I ask people to try to balance--first of all I ask them to give him the presumption of innocence--but even for those who assume that he's guilty, I ask them to try to balance their judgment of him and look at his life in totality and not to judge him based on one particular act."

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