War Eagle Extra

Court documents detail arrest in Toomer’s Corner oak tree fire

Jochen Wiest
Jochen Wiest

Court documents filed Tuesday with the Circuit Court of Lee County detail the Auburn Police Department’s arrest of Jochen Wiest.

The 29-year-old faces multiple criminal charges for allegedly lighting one of the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner on fire Sunday following Auburn’s 18-13 win over LSU.

Wiest was taken into custody in the area on an unrelated charge of public intoxication, according to a statement issued Sunday afternoon by Capt. Lorenza Dorsey.

The Auburn police department charged Wiest with desecration of a venerable object and later added charges of first-degree criminal mischief.

The criminal mischief charges are a Class C felony punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.

According to the probable cause statement, bystanders directed officers to Wiest Sunday morning. Officers arrested Wiest toward the rear of Compass Bank, 101 S. College St., where residents had Wiest detained.

The court documents state a pair of witnesses positively identified Wiest as the person who started the fire. Video surveillance footage corroborated the statements. The police said they also found a black lighter on Wiest.

“One of the witnesses stated they saw the suspect grab a piece of toilet paper hanging from the tree and use a lighter to ignite the toilet paper,” the statement reads. “The other witness stated they saw Wiest with a lighter in his hand and then saw the toilet paper near him on fire.”

Wiest provided a rights advised statement denying he started the fire.

The court documents identify Wiest, a German native, as a married father of two working for Baxter International. If Wiest posts his $4,000 bond, he must forfeit his passport prior to release.

Wiest remained in jail as of Tuesday afternoon.

The initial charges of public intoxication and desecration of a venerable object were transferred from the Municipal Court in Auburn to the Circuit Court of Lee County.

Judge Steven T. Speakman was assigned to all proceedings against Wiest, but a court date hasn’t been set. Margaret Brown is listed as Wiest’s attorney in the court filings.

Auburn University put out a statement Monday asking fans not to roll the tree that was set on fire — the oak alongside Magnolia Avenue — until further notice. It was only the second time fans rolled the new trees since Auburn officials announced the return of the longtime tradition in August.

The original oak trees had to be replaced after being poisoned by an Alabama fan following the 2010 Iron Bowl.

Auburn planted the new 35-foot tall oaks in February 2015 from a South Carolina nursery.

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