Opening statements in Neal trial begin Tuesday

Opening statements will begin Tuesday in the trial of Joe Neal Jr., a defense attorney facing allegations of rape.


Monday was dedicated to selecting the members of the jury that will try him over the next several days in what’s expected to be a fiercely challenged case.

The questions used to pick jurors Monday offered some hints about strategies the defense plans to use in the trial.

An indictment alleges that Neal and his ex-wife, Caroline Caldwell, raped an 18-year-old woman Dec. 16 at their home on Kings Way.

The indictment also charges the couple with providing alcohol to a person under the age of 21 for giving the woman wine.

In a March bond hearing, a prosecutor said the couple invited the woman to smoke marijuana on their balcony, then tried to force her into a threesome.

Much of Monday’s questioning focused on the issue of rape and any past experiences or biases jurors held on that topic.

Neal’s attorney, Tom Withers, told the members of the jury pool that rape is one of the most serious crimes and they would be hearing descriptive terms.

He also asked whether anyone had been affected by false allegations of rape or sexual assault.

Part of the questioning focused on opinions potential jurors might have formed after reading about the case in The Augusta Chronicle or watching television news.

One jury prospect, who had taught the defendant in college, said he was shocked by the allegations and described them as “lurid.”

Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus said in court Monday that he’s preparing for the defense to argue that the victim made the allegations as a means to sue Neal and his “deep pockets.”