Football player?s trial to begin Wednesday

By By Michael McFall

By Michael McFall

Maurice “Mo” Neal’s jury trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning after six months of hearings and anticipation.

Neal, a backup middle linebacker for the Utah football team and a sophomore in sociology, pleaded not guilty in June to two simple assault charges and one misdemeanor, failure to stop at the command of law enforcement. All three charges are class A misdemeanors, carrying up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Neal’s future with the team8212;and potentially his enrollment as a student at the U8212;is dependent on the outcome of Wednesday’s trial before a jury of his peers.

The Utah coaches are waiting for the justice system before they make a decision about Neal’s circumstances, said head coach Kyle Whittingham in a statement.

According to the charging papers, filed at the 3rd District Court, Neal is accused of punching two men outside Lumpy’s Bar in downtown Salt Lake City on May 318212;and when Salt Lake City Police Department officers tried to break up the fight, Neal ran. He was arrested about a block and a half away from the bar.

The trial might bring to light what Neal’s case has to do with a local gang. The case was assigned to the Utah District Attorney’s Office’s Organized Gang Prosecution Team in June. Alicia Cook, spokeswoman for the Attorney’s Office, said it was assigned because a Salt Lake City police officer had reasonable suspicion that at least one person involved is a gang member, though specifics won’t be made public until the trial begins.

The football coaches have had other athletes who got caught up with the law, such as Marquis Wilson, who was dismissed last spring, also for an assault charge.

Neal’s defense attorney, D. Gilbert Athay, did not respond for comment. The prosecutor and Neal could not be reached for comment.

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