AL rape suspect’s lenient plea deal ruined when she proclaims her innocence on Facebook
The Birmingham News reported that a judge has delayed the sentencing of a former teacher who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 14-year-old student after learning that the woman had professed her innocence on Facebook.
Circuit Judge John B. Bush said that he learned that either Jennifer McNeill, or someone with access to her Facebook account, posted that she “would like to thank the people who have supported me. IF I were guilty and IF there were ANY evidence then I would be in jail right now. The plea was the best decision for my family. Those of you that understand the law know exactly what I am talking about. The truth will eventually come out. A lie can’t live forever.”
He said he had no choice but to postpone the sentencing, because he is “not interested in sentencing innocent people.” One of the county’s deputy district attorneys, C.J. Robinson, who is responsible for calculating the sentencing guidelines for plea deals, agreed with the judge’s decision to delay sentencing.
He could not “in good conscience” allow an innocent woman to plead guilty — but he also could not allow someone who manipulated the system, as she would be doing if she pleaded guilty despite her innocence, have her sentencing record indicate that she is “a person of good character or has a good reputation in the community in which she lives.”
Last August, McNeill was charged with six counts of second-degree rape and two counts of second-degree sodomy. She later confessed to police that she had, in fact, had a sexual relationship with the then 14-year-old boy, and on May 15, 2014, she pleaded guilty three of the rape and one of the sodomy counts.
However, after a link to a story about her plea arrangement was posted on the Facebook page of The Clanton Advertiser, McNeill — who used an account identifying her as “Jennifer Henry” — allegedly posted a comment professing her innocence. If the judge and prosecutor determine that it was McNeill who posted that comment subsequent to her plea arrangement, the deal will be vacated and McNeill will have to stand trial on all counts.
If convicted, the former sixth grade teacher could have faced anywhere between two and 20 years in prison. Under the arrangements of the plea deal, she would have been sentenced for five years, but had the possibility of splitting the time served between prison and probation.
Watch a report on her initial arrest via News 6 below.