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Martin MacNeill's attorney asks for dismissal of sex abuse case

Published January 4, 2014 7:39 pm

Courts • MacNeill is accused of putting his hands down the pants of a woman relative in 2007.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A week after asking for Martin MacNeill's murder conviction to be dismissed or that he be granted a new trial, his attorney is asking another judge to dismiss a separate sexual abuse case or disqualify Utah County prosecutors from handling it.

In court papers filed Friday, defense attorney Randall Spencer asks that 4th District Judge Samuel McVey dismiss a charge of forcible sexual abuse against MacNeill, 57, which stemmed from allegations that MacNeill put his hands down an adult female relative's pants in 2007 and then asked her to sign a statement saying he did not touch her, according to court documents.

If the judge won't dismiss the charge, Spencer asks that the Utah County Attorney's Office be barred from prosecuting the case ­— a similar motion to one he made before MacNeill's October trial, where the former doctor was found guilty of murdering his wife, Michele MacNeill.

Spencer argues in his latest motion that the county attorney's office released non-public information about his client to the media from 2009 through 2012 in order to generate leads in the investigation of Michele MacNeill's death. Spencer said that stories published by various media outlets insinuated that Martin MacNeill was a "sexual predator" who raped multiple women and got away with it. The defense attorney alleges that Utah County Attorney's Office investigators and prosecutors released this information and that it was an "extrajudicial statement" that prejudiced MacNeill's due process rights. Because of this release of information, Spencer said any potential jury pool is now tainted.

Also Friday, Spencer filed a motion asking that the two-day trial, now scheduled for February, be moved to a different county. In that motion, Spencer wrote that publicity related to the murder trial — which garnered daily coverage in local and national media — would make seating an impartial jury in Utah County impossible.

"It should also be noted that the excessive publicity about Mr. MacNeill was originally ignited by the inappropriate dissemination of information to various media outlets by the Utah County Attorney's office in hopes to gain leads from the local public about his case," Spencer wrote.

Prosecutors have not yet had a chance to respond to Spencer's motions in court. MacNeill is scheduled to appear in Provo's 4th District Court Monday for a pretrial conference in the sex abuse case.

MacNeill was scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday in the murder case — where a jury found him guilty of murder and obstruction of justice in his wife's 2007 death — but that date will likely be delayed after Spencer filed a motion last Friday asking for 4th District Judge Derek Pullan to arrest judgment in the case or grant a new trial. MacNeill's attorneys argue in the 30-page motion that a federal inmate lied on the stand about a possible early release he received in exchange for his testimony, and that prosecutors did not disclose that a deal was in the works.

That federal inmate testified during Martin MacNeill's four-week trial that the former doctor confessed to him that he drugged his wife and then drowned her a bathtub at their Pleasant Grove home on April 11, 2007.

Michele MacNeill was found unconscious in her bathtub by her 6-year-old daughter, Ada MacNeill, that day. The child was sent by her father to a neighbor's house to get help, and eventually Michele MacNeill was pulled from the bathtub by a neighbor and Martin MacNeill. The two attempted CPR before medical crews arrived.

Michele MacNeill, 50, was pronounced dead at American Fork Hospital.

This isn't the first time Martin MacNeill's attorneys have accused prosecutors of misconduct and asked for the murder case to be dismissed. Before trial, they alleged prosecutors withheld more than 1,000 pages of documents from defense attorneys that may have aided in Martin MacNeill's defense. McVey denied the dismissal motion and also denied a motion to have prosecutors disqualified from the case.

MacNeill has been housed in the Utah County jail since his 2012 arrest, though he was briefly hospitalized in early December after he attempted suicide.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller