A circuit judge has denied former Auburn University football player Mike McNeil’s motion to withdraw his attorney and has advised both parties to act on the premise that his trial will proceed at the beginning of next week.
Circuit Judge Chris Hughes denied granting a motion from McNeil’s attorney, Ben Hand, to withdraw from his representing his client and that McNeil should seek other options before trial, such as adding another attorney. McNeil will be tried on two counts of first-degree robbery for his alleged involvement in an armed robbery at an Auburn residence in 2011.
At the beginning of the hearing Friday morning, Hand brought up a 12-page news story reported by ESPN Thursday night, which he used as basis to continue the case. In his defense, Hand said that Antonio Goodwin, who was convicted of the robbery in April 2012, was cited in the article about how half the AU football team smoked synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice, and also made references to the robbery.
“That is relevant information we have been seeking for a long time,” Hand said.
Hand also motioned for the court to change the venue of the trial, citing the ESPN story, the recent report released by Roopstigo.com, as causing an increased interest in the case, which he argued would make it difficult to strike an impartial jury due to the fact that Auburn University is the largest employer in the area and that the stories have cast it in a negative light. Hand argued that if the case were continued, it would give McNeil enough time to find a new attorney.
“It needs to be a jury not only we can select from, but that has nothing to do with the University,” Hand said.
Rebutting Hand’s argument, Chief Assistant District Attorney Kisha Abercrombie contended that McNeil and his defense had had over two years to make motions to change the trial venue, as well as to attain comments from Goodwin and other involved with the case. Abercrombie also stated that Auburn University was not a party in this case and should have no pull on the impact of the case. Hand responded that they had tried to get in contact with Goodwin in the past and that they would like to attain possible recordings of Goodwin speaking to ESPN regarding the story.
Both Abercrombie and District Attorney Robbie Treese stated they were unsure if such a recording existed as different jails have different procedures about recording calls from inmates. Following this, Hughes asked both parties to see if such a recording does exist.
Following arguments by both parties, Hughes advised both parties to act on the premise that McNeil’s trial would move forward, starting Monday. Hughes also stated that McNeil would only be tried on two counts of first-degree robbery.
Follow Drew Taylor on Twitter @mrdrew_taylor