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Family objects to plea bargain

sentencing stallsd

December 13, 1997

Family objects to plea bargain; sentencing stalled

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Whether a Martinsburg man will spend any additional time in jail for the death of a long-time friend was thrown into doubt Friday when family members of the victim objected to the plea agreement.

"The victims have changed their position. Now, all of a sudden, they don't agree with the plea," Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Friday.

Michael Andrew Neely, 43, was scheduled to be sentenced before Judge David Sanders for involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum of one year in prison, according to Games-Neely. She said Sanders postponed the sentencing to consider the objections of the family of Terry Craig White. Neely remains free on bail.

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On Jan. 22, White, 45, of Inwood, was shot in the head and killed at the home of Neely, of 1201 Winchester Ave. Neely pleaded guilty to the involuntary manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum of one year in prison, on Sept. 19.

Games-Neely said the objections were raised in court by a sister and daughter of White.

"They changed their minds because they think it's second-degree murder, but I can't prove that," she said.

She said the state would have to prove Neely intended to kill White to get a second-degree conviction.

According to Games-Neely, Sanders could decide to accept the original plea agreement or schedule the case for trial. Because the plea was not conditional, she said that could raise the issue of double jeopardy.

"If the plea is reversed, he can't be tried again," she said.

Defense attorney Kevin Mills agreed.

"We intend to continue to assert his right to the plea agreement an object to any change in the plea or withdrawal of the plea based on double jeopardy concerns," he said afterward.

Mills said Neely had made statements to his detriment when he entered the plea agreement in "reliance of the plea offered by the state and endorsed by the victims, by the police and accepted by the court."

Games-Neely said the family had originally gone along with the plea bargain, and with the probation department's sentencing recommendation after the plea was entered.

The prosecutor said both Neely and White were intoxicated at the time of the shooting.

"There was no evidence of a fight, no struggle. He called 911 and tried to keep the man alive," she said.

Even if a trial was scheduled, she said it would be "next to impossible" to prove that it was anything but an accidental shooting.

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