2 of 3 charges dismissed for U linebacker

By Michael McFall

The day before his jury trial was set to begin, Maurice Neal became a free man, mostly.

Neal, a Ute backup linebacker and a sophomore in sociology, was facing two assault charges and one charge of fleeing from an officer8212;each class A misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine8212;all to which he pleaded not guilt. But Tuesday, he changed his plea and in return, is a free man8212;one who will likely no longer be at the U come 2010.

“I’m glad that justice prevailed,” said head football coach Kyle Whittingham. “We wish him well. He’s been an important part of this program.”

Neal was accused of punching two men May 31, according to his charging papers. When Salt Lake City Police officers arrived to break up the fight, Neal ran. He was arrested about a block and a half away.

But 3rd District Court Judge Vernice Trease dismissed the assault charges against Neal for changing his plea to guilty for fleeing from an officer. The court placed him under probation for a year, and he will have to pay $200 by May 3.

Neal now plans to transfer, said Liz Abel, spokeswoman for the U athletic department. He will probably transfer to a school in his home state of California after finishing this semester, Whittingham said.

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

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