McNeil and three teammates from the 2010 championship team were charged with armed robbery and kicked off the team in March 2011. Antonio Goodwin is already serving a 15-year sentence, while Dakota Mosley and Shaun Kitchens are awaiting trial.
The 24-year-old McNeil submitted a plea deal on Monday to Lee County Circuit Judge Christopher Hughes, just as his trial was set to start. McNeil received a 15-year split sentence, according to the terms of the deal. He will spend three years in prison, plus another three years of supervised probation, and he must pay $2,000 in restitution.
If he violates any terms, then Hughes could sentence him to serve the remainder of the 15 years.
McNeil’s attorney, Ben Hand, advised his client to agree to the “best-interest” plea where McNeil did not have to admit guilt. But McNeil conceded that prosecutors had enough evidence to generate a guilty plea.
However, Hand claims that the alleged robbery was a prank that went wrong and that there is evidence that demonstrates that the whole incident was a joke.
“If you look back at Mike’s history, he has a real good history,” Hand said. “He worked with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, did a lot of good things. Worked with children in a hospital, always had a good reputation.”
But witnesses at Goodwin’s trial testified that McNeil had a gun in the robbery. Hand said that McNeil was an innocent bystander, who jumped in a car with friends to go to a mobile home, without any knowledge of what was going to take place. Hand acknowledged that there were certain facts that would be difficult to prove otherwise.
McNeil will be appearing in court again to testify against the other defendants if called as a witness, according to his plea agreement. Prosecutors agreed not to seek further charges against McNeil, who was initially charged with five counts of first-degree robbery. If found guilty, he could have at least faced 20 years in prison.
In Auburn’s win over Oregon in the BCS title game in January 2011, McNeil came up big for the Tigers, with 14 tackles as the starting safety.