- The Weld County District Attorney has dropped all criminal charges against a Fort Lupton UPS driver who admitted to chopping down two cottonwood trees on city property that the DA now admits were nothing more than sucker growth or weed trees.
“I’m still upset. It never should have gone to this level,” said Larry Plooster, a UPS driver who has spent a year and thousands of dollars fighting the charges.
The case against Plooster began June 28, 2008. He had complained to city officials that wild cottonwood trees growing around a pond at Coyote Creek Golf Course were obscuring his view of the course. After more than a year of complaining and waiting — and believing he had the blessing of city officials –Plooster scaled the fence in his backyard and cut down two cottonwood suckers that were between 5 to 7 feet tall. He never hid or denied what he did.
“I really didn’t do anything wrong. I was told I had permission to cut them’,” said Plooster.
But the City of Fort Lupton disagreed. Police arrested him charging him with felony mischief saying the cottonwood trees had been planted by city workers and were worth thousands of dollars. Plooster spent a night in jail and had to post $20,000 bond.
Plooster hired a licensed tree expert who came to the scene and examined the damage. The arborist concluded Plooster had cut down “water sprouts and sucker growth, not planted cottonwood trees. No monetary value,” concluded the arborist. Even though Weld County prosecutors were provided with that information, they pressed their case.
Last December, prosecutors dropped the felony charge but in May, re-filed a misdemeanor criminal mischief and criminal trespass charge against Plooster.
District Attorney Ken Buck refused to discuss the conclusion of the case. A spokesman for Buck, Jennifer Finch, wrote that “During the follow up investigation of this case, this office received information from an expert arborist that the plants in dispute were not individually planted on the golf course but rather were the result of seeding and/or were runners from other trees on the course.”
“This new information from the expert raised a question as to whether the value element could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore this office concluded that the charges should be dismissed. We have no further comment.”
“These were weed trees is what they are saying,” said Larry Plooster. “It took over a year to say that and thousands of dollars on my part. They damaged more trees with paperwork than I did.”