— OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Former Auburn defensive back Mike McNeil was sentenced to serve at least three years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to first-degree robbery for an incident his attorney characterized as "possibly a prank."
Lee County Circuit Judge Christopher Hughes accepted McNeil's plea deal Monday as his trial was set to begin. Under the deal, McNeil received a 15-year split sentence: He must serve three years, plus three years of supervised probation, and pay $2,000 in restitution. If he violates any terms, the judge could sentence him to the remainder of the 15 years.
McNeil, 24, and three teammates from the Tigers' 2010 national championship team were charged with armed robbery and dismissed from the team in March 2011. Antonio Goodwin is serving a 15-year sentence while Dakota Mosley and Shaun Kitchens are awaiting trial.
The judge accepted a "best-interest" plea where McNeil didn't have to admit guilt. McNeil responded "Yes, sir" when Hughes asked if he believed prosecutors had enough evidence to produce a guilty plea.
McNeil's attorney, Ben Hand, said there was some evidence the alleged robbery at a mobile home was a prank that went awry.
"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. And what could be portrayed as possibly a prank ended up very bad.
"He was distressed about it. Any time you're facing going to prison, that's tough. But he understood what the law was and understood what could have happened."
Witnesses at Goodwin's trial had testified that McNeil had a gun in the robbery at a mobile home. Hand said information could have come out at trial to support the contention that it was a prank. He said "everybody seemed to know everybody" at the home, but some people were present that they didn't realize would be there.