Only on 12: Ga. Trial Lawyers Association issues statement as local attorney faces rape accusation

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Dec. 30, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- You don't have to go any further than his website to find that Joe Neal Jr. has an impressive list of accomplishments.

But recently, the Augusta attorney and vice president of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association was slapped with rape accusations.

"It is totally not Joe's character," said Butch Palmer. "It's just hard to believe."

Former commission candidate Palmer held his election night watch party at Neal's home back in 2009.

"The Neals have always been fine people," Palmer said.

Neal, 43, is now accused of giving alcohol and marijuana to an 18-year-old girl and "having carnal knowledge of her without her consent."

"It sounds like a classic case of he said, she said," Palmer said.

We could not reach Neal at his office, at home or on the phone.

"They always say innocent until proven guilty," said Marilyn Kitchens, an Augusta resident. "You are guilty to me until proven innocent."

Neal's wife, 23-year-old Caroline Caldwell Neal, was arrested just a day later after the incident report was filed.

"There is assault and battery all over town," Palmer said. "It is amazing. Is something in the water?"

Neal's wife was arrested for "accidentally shutting her husband's head in a door."

In the incident report, Neal claims his wife hit and scratched him in front of his 13-year-old son. The deputy found scratches on his arm and bicep. His wife also had scratches on her hand that Neal and his son say happened when she punched a glass door.

She was taken to the hospital and, after she was released, was arrested for simple battery-family violence charges.

"Set the example for people," Kitchens said. "Because people are going to look at you privately and professionally."

Authorities are investigating the case, but Neal has not been charged with rape. Investigators' findings will be turned over to the District Attorney's office when they are complete. This case could be headed for a grand jury.

The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association issued a response late this afternoon.

"We know nothing regarding these allegations and have no comment on the matter," said Emily Wring with the GTLA.

Joseph Neal Jr./WRDW-TV/December 30, 2011
Caroline Caldwell Neal/WRDW-TV/December 30, 2011