Opening statements at Neal trial show sides' approach

Credibility, consent to be key issues in courtroom battle

 Credibility and consent will be the deciding issues in a rape trial that pits the testimony of a teenage babysitter against a well-known defense attorney.


Opening statements Tuesday showed that the prosecution will portray Joe Neal Jr., 43, as a calculating man who steered a graphic conversation about sex into a drunken “threesome” among himself, his now ex-wife, Caroline Caldwell Neal, and an 18-year-old woman on Dec. 16.

“The whole time they’re prepping her,” said Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus as he told jurors about the wine and marijuana that the babysitter said was consumed before the sex began.

Neal’s attorney, Tom Withers, cast doubt from the outset on the alleged victim’s statements to Richmond County sheriff’s investigators and painted her as the instigator of the entire event.

“Mr. Fogus is going to tell you (the victim) was too drunk to consent … but what you’re going to see is that (the victim) was the first one up the stairs,” Withers said.

Neither attorney disputed that the case will frequently veer into explicit detail during the trial and apologized several times to jurors for the descriptive language they used to describe the sexual intercourse.

“We just have to call it like it is,” Fogus said.

The general timeline of events brings the teenager to the couple’s home on Kings Way the night before a Christmas party, but the roles of the players are disputed. The state’s case has Caroline Neal and the victim sharing a bottle of wine over a conversation about sex. The defendant wandered in and out on the conversation until he took an active role in suggesting a “three-way,” Fogus said. It’s Withers’ contention that the victim first broached the subject.

Fogus said that Neal suggested the babysitter go upstairs to smoke marijuana and eventually convinced her to lie on his bed with his wife.

Intercourse between the teenager and Neal only lasted about 30 seconds, but Fogus said she was unaware it was occurring because of her drunken state.

Withers said that the babysitter was the first one to get on the bed and that she consented to the intercourse. He also emphasized that she and Neal exchanged sexually explicit text messages the next day.

“She texted dozens and dozens of times over the next six hours. Do you text your rapist?” Withers asked.

The first witness is expected to testify this morning.

Opening statements in Neal trial begin Tuesday
Joe Neal Jr. trial scheduled Monday
David Fry remains in good standing with bar association after plea, but license of Joe Neal Jr. suspended