04/28/10 — Neal sentenced

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Neal sentenced

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 28, 2010 1:46 PM

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William Neal is handcuffed by Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputies after he was sentenced to three consecutive life terms for rape by Judge Arnold Jones in Wayne Superior Court this morning. Neal was found guilty Tuesday of the crime that sent Dwayne Dail to prison 20 years ago.

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Dwayne Dail hugs the victim of the rape for which he spent 18 years in prison today in Wayne County Superior Court after William J. Neal was sentenced to life in prison for the crime.

A woman who was raped as a 12-year-old and the man who was wrongly convicted of the crime more than 20 years ago, along with their families, hugged Tuesday afternoon following the conviction of William J. Neal, 54, who was found guilty of the crime in Wayne Superior Court.

Judge Arnold Jones today sentenced Neal to three consecutive life sentences, plus 10 years.

The families had implored the judge to hand down the maximum sentence allowed.

Neal was found guilty on charges of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual offense, both of which carry mandatory life sentences. Neal also was found guilty of first-degree burglary that carries up to a life sentence and on indecent liberties with a minor that carries a sentence of up to 10 years.

"I am not trying to delay the decision simply put I am trying to make the best decision that I can," Jones said Tuesday afternoon of his reason for waiting until today to render his decision.

The conviction and today's sentencing take place in the same courtroom where Dwayne Dail was convicted of the crime in 1987. Dail spent 18 years in prison for the offense before genetic evidence was rediscovered and exonerated him and lead to charges against Neal.

Neal was accused of standing on a chair and climbing through the girl's Jefferson Park window and raping her in September 1987.

Both the victim and Dail addressed the court during sentencing phase arguments. Neal took the stand as well, thanking the court for its time in "this incident."

"For any inconvenience I caused anyone in their life, I sincerely apologize," he said.

Defense attorney Christo-pher Rogerson asked the state to take into account as mitigating factors that Neal has been "gainfully employed" and has been "a person of good character and reputation in the community in which he live."

District Attorney Branny Vickory asked if there was any evidence to be presented to that effect. Rogerson answered "no."

"I do not object to him having been gainfully employed," Vickory said. "I think someone needs to come in and say he has been a person of good character. I have never heard that from anybody, and I object."

Vickory asked the victim and Dail to talk about how that night and the subsequent years have changed their lives.

The News-Argus as a matter of policy does not identify the victims of sexual assaults.

"He took my innocence from me when I was 12 years old," the victim said. "He took my innocence from me and in that one night I went to being afraid of all men. He didn't care. He didn't show any remorse."

She said Neal did not show remorse when he made Dail a victim as well.

"I am here because I want justice," she said. 'I am also here for the young girls and women he has assaulted who don't have the courage to come up here."

During the trial, the prosecution sought to link Neal to other rapes, including that of a Raleigh woman in 1987.

The Goldsboro victim said she had lived through the assault and aftermath and has been forced to relive it again.

"I am here today to let him know I am no longer his victim," she said. "I am a survivor. As a Christian, I have to forgive him. He has ruined my life, my daughter's life, Dwayne Dail's life.

"I don't understand. He knew he did this, and he doesn't have a conscience. I am ready to close this chapter, and it will be closed when you bring back the sentence."

She said the hardest thing she had to after the rape was to go into her mother's room and tell her a man had climbed through her window. Her mother carried her to the hospital and called the police.

"Even to this day I am scared of sleeping by myself," she said

She said that she also has to live with the fact that Dail spent 18 years behind bars for something he did not do.

"I felt guilty for sending the wrong man to prison. 'I feel guilty for what I put his family through. I remember that day in court, he kept screaming, 'It was not me. I did not do it.' It all came rushing back."

She said Neal had to face the two lives he had "messed up."

She said it felt good having Dail and his family in the courtroom for support. Dail, who was 20 years old at the time of the assault, took the stand after the victim spoke.

He said he turned down a plea bargain because he knew he was innocent. Dail said everything that can be done to a person, other than taking his life, was done to him in prison.

Dail called Neal a "scumbag" and said he had lived "with those kinds of people and scumbags for 18 and a half years. Never allow him a chance to have another victim. It doesn't matter if it has been men, women or children. I struggle every day. I have a hard time dealing with life. I love children but now I am scared to be in a room with them without a supervisor."

Dail said his son was born seven months after he went to prison and that today they have no relationship. He said life has been difficult since he was set free, but that he is making progress.

"I am trying to relearn my family and my family is trying to relearn me," he said. "'I am 41 years old. It is very hard. I am not stupid. I am 20 years behind and I do not know if I will be able to catch up.

"A great burden has been lifted off my heart by talking to her (victim's) mother. It has lifted a load off of me."

He said had noticed Neal sitting "over there smiling."

"It is awful someone can do this to someone and not care and get on the witness stand and smile at me," Dail said. "I ask you judge to give him the maximum so he cannot have a chance to put his hands on a woman or a child again."

That, he said, would keep Neal from "looking so smug."

Rogerson asked no questions of either the victim or Dail.

Vickory asked the small crowd in the courtroom how many had been present when Dail was convicted. He and a few others raised their hands.

"No one will forget that (Dail's) wail," he said. "As a young prosecutor I think it affected me. The noise that came from his mouth was chilling. It was a horrifying sound."

It was a sound that the victim and others remember, he said.

"I think it changed the way I look at life," he said. "It is not a game; it is people's lives. William Neal could absolutely care less about what effect he has had on other people's lives. It is all about him. I am asking you, your honor, that you protect us, the citizens from him. His prior convictions outweigh any mitigating factors. I think it is important to let Mr. Neal know that it stops today."

Rogerson said his client wanted to address the court and asked if Neal could speak from his seat. Jones said Neal could speak, but that like the victim and Dail, he would have to be sworn in and take the stand.

Neal said his life had changed when his father died. He said he goes to church and Bible study. He said that "unfortunately" he had been in prison. However, he said he still tried to be a good influence.

Neal said he would try to give "good advice" to younger people in prison so they would not make his mistakes.