Joe Neal Jr. seeks plea change on one misdemeanor

Augusta attorney Joe Neal Jr. has asked to withdraw his guilty plea to one of his three misdemeanors because he wasn’t informed the plea would result in the loss of his driver’s license for 180 days.

Specifically, Neal is asking to enter a no contest plea or receive a conditional discharge on the charge of possession of marijuana, “neither of which would require mandatory suspension of his license,” according to a motion.

The argument made by Neal’s attorney, Tom Withers, is that the loss of driving privileges is “collateral damage.” Other examples of collateral damage given in the motion are registration as a sex offender or deportation.

In the motion, Neal contends he was not informed by his attorney that this was one of the consequences of his plea.

Neal was originally indicted on charges of rape and furnishing alcohol to a person under the age of 21. A teenage baby sitter said that she was forced into an intimate situation with Neal and his ex-wife, Caroline Neal.

Neal went to trial this month, but after the first day of testimony he accepted a plea bargain that reduced the rape charge to disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana. He also pleaded guilty to the alcohol charge for a combined three years’ probation and 100 hours of community service, which started Tuesday at the Reed Creek wastewater treatment plant.

Caroline Neal has pleaded guilty to furnishing alcohol to a person under the age of 21 in exchange for dismissal of the rape charge. She is scheduled for sentencing Monday morning – at the same time as her former husband’s hearing to withdraw the guilty plea.

Superior Court Judge Jim Blanchard ordered Neal’s community service be performed at a sewage treatment plant “in keeping with the conduct in this case.”

John Maldonado, the treatment operations manager, confirmed that Neal’s first day of community service was Tuesday. He said it’s “very common” for people to perform community service at the plant, generally sweeping floors and doing other light maintenance.

But “this is our first time with the media” asking questions, Maldonado said.

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