Ex-AU player Mike McNeil pleads guilty
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ormer Auburn football player Mike McNeil pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery on Monday.
McNeil, whose interviews and story were at the heart of Selena Roberts’ recent article Auburn’s Tainted Title | Victims, Violations and Vendettas for Glory, was sentenced to 15 years. He will serve three years in prison and an additional three years on probation.
In Roberts’ article, McNeil and his family maintained his innocence. The article stated that McNeil had rejected plea deals and was eager to go to trial.
McNeil accused Auburn of changing grades to keep him and other players academically eligible, and former assistant Will Muschamp of paying him “about $400″ in cash following what McNeil called a difficult day at practice.
His family suggested that Auburn officials were working with police and the district attorney to ensure he went to jail as a way of keeping him silent.
“Maybe there is a fear in Auburn’s mind that Michael knows too much,” McNeil’s grandfather Clifton McNeil told Roberts. “Their fear is that Michael will expose the family secret. It’s a way to silence him.”
ESPN released a report the day after Roberts’ article appeared stating that Auburn had attempted to “cover up” positive results from players tested for synthetic marijuana.
It was clear that effects from synthetic marijuana use would be vital to the defense of McNeil and the other former players awaiting trial in the case.
Muschamp and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik have both strongly denied the claims in the ‘Tainted Title’ article. Auburn called Roberts’ reporting “gotcha, hide-the-ball journalism at its worst” and has presented strong evidence to contradict ESPN’s claims.
Based on testimony from the victims, prosecutors allege McNeil and former teammates Shaun Kitchens and Antonio Goodwin entered a residence in Conway Acres Mobile Home Park on March 11, 2011, and robbed five college students. Co-defendant Dakota Mosley waited in the getaway vehicle outside.
Prosecutors say McNeil was one of the two armed intruders and the only one carrying a real firearm, a .45-caliber handgun borrowed from former AU running back Michael Dyer.
McNeil, who was originally indicted on five counts of first-degree robbery, one count of first-degree burglary and one count of third-degree theft of property, stopped short of agreeing with prosecutors’ accounts of the evening.
“I was informed what they are trying to say is the truth, but I am not saying it is,” McNeil said.
Goodwin was convicted of robbery in 2012 and is serving a 15-year sentence. Kitchens and Mosley are still awaiting trial.