Former AU player McNeil withdraws not guilty plea, sentenced

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Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013 9:55 am

Former Auburn University football player Mike McNeil has withdrawn his not guilty plea and has agreed to plead guilty to first-degree robbery stemming from an armed robbery two years.

Before his trial was set to begin Monday morning, McNeil, who did not sport his trademark dreadlocks, and his attorney, Ben Hand, approached Circuit Judge Chris Hughes to withdraw his former plea of not guilty to first-degree robbery. McNeil was subsequently sentenced to a 15-year split sentence in which McNeil must spend three years in prison and three years on probation upon his release, in addition to paying $2,000 in court fees. If he violates his probation, he will be required to serve the remainder of his sentence.

McNeil will be transported to Kilby Detention Facility in Montgomery for the time being.

Following the sentencing, Hand said the plea agreement was in the best interest of his client in light of a much stricter sentence if he had been convicted. The decision was reached over the weekend when McNeil felt there was enough evidence to convict him and that the mandatory sentence for any armed robbery is 21 years.

“The risk of a conviction versus the three years that they offered him far outweighed the risk of going to trial,” Hand said.

In addition, Hand described the whole robbery as a "prank" that ended up very badly and that that point would have been contended had it reached court.

"There was evidence that it was," Hand said. "Everyone seemed to know each other."

In addition, Hand maintained that McNeil claimed he was taken to the residence and didn't know what was going on until the robbery had actually taken place. 

Hand said McNeil's family is praying for him, especially his five-year old daughter.

"He went to see her last night, spent some time with her and told her he would see her in three years," Hand said.

Last week, Hughes denied granting a motion from Hand to withdraw from representing McNeil and that he should seek other options before trial, such as adding another attorney. There was also a pending motion to change the venue of the trial.

McNeil was charged in 2011 with armed robbery along with three other teammates of an Auburn residence. Shaun Kitchens and Dakota Mosley are still up for trial dates. As part of his plea deal, McNeil must testify truthfully against them in future proceedings if called by the state.

District Attorney Robbie Treese provided no comment due to the ongoing cases surrounding the 2011 robbery.