05/06/08 — The real culprit?

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The real culprit?

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on May 6, 2008 1:46 PM

Dwayne Dail served 18 years for a rape he did not commit, but now prosecutors believe they can convict the man who might have actually climbed through a 12-year-old's window in 1987.

A man serving a seven-year sentence in Johnson County on habitual felony offenses now faces the charges that sent Dail, a former Goldsboro resident, to prison.

News-Argus Video Report

William J. Neal Jr., 52, was jailed under $1 million bond on charges of first-degree sex offense, first-degree rape and taking indecent liberties with a minor.

Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell set the bond for Neal, who arrived Monday at 2 p.m. wearing orange prison garb.

Neal told Braswell he is currently indigent, and will require a court-appointed attorney.

"I don't have any funds to hire an attorney, so I'm saying that I can hire one if I can get my family to help me, but right now I don't have the money," Neal told the judge.

Neal turned down the first attorney on Braswell's list of available lawyers.

The prisoner said he is currently serving a sentence after being represented by that attorney, so Braswell appointed attorney Jim Copeland to represent him.

District Attorney Branny Vickory said that because the crimes were committed in 1987, the law is different than for current crimes.

Vickory said Neal may be facing life in prison for the offenses.

"I realize this is the old law, this is the fair-sentencing law," Vickory said. "First degree-sex offense, first-degree rape were class B felonies back in 1987, those were mandatory life sentences."

Chris Mumma, the N.C. Commission on Actual Innocence attorney who helped free him, said Neal has two victims because of Dail's false conviction.

"i'd like to say it's been 8 months coming since Dwayne got out, but it's actually 20 years coming," Ms. Mumma said. "This man needs to be sentenced for more than victimizing a young girl. He victimized Dwayne Dail as well."