PROVO — Martin MacNeill, who was convicted in November of killing his wife, returned to a Provo courtroom Monday to answer to charges of sexually abusing one of his daughters.
It was the first time Martin MacNeill has been seen in public since his suicide attempt on Dec. 5.
MacNeill smiled as he waited for his turn to face the judge. It was a brief appearance, and 4th District Judge Samuel McVey set a Jan. 23 hearing for arguments on motions filed by defense attorney Randy Spencer.
The case stems from allegations that MacNeill groped one of his daughters on two occasions in 2007. MacNeill is scheduled to stand trial in early February. He is charged with forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony. If convicted, he faces a prison term of one to 15 years.
Spencer said MacNeill, a former doctor, is having a hard time in jail.
“He is really struggling,” Spencer said. “It is very difficult for him to be convicted of something he still maintains his innocence of. Of all the bad things he admits he has done in his life, he finds it quite ironic he was convicted of something he didn't do.”
Spencer filed a motion last month asking the judge to dismiss MacNeill's murder conviction because he believes one of the state's witnesses — a federal prison inmate who testified against MacNeill during the trial — lied on the stand.
“After the trial ended, I certainly had a gut feeling that Inmate No. 1 was not telling the truth,” Spencer said Monday.
Among other things, that inmate testified that MacNeill confided in him while they were both incarcerated in Texarkana Federal Prison that his wife was "in the way" and that he wanted to make a life with his girlfriend. He also said MacNeill told him that police "couldn't prove that he did anything."
“I then learned the inmate had been released from prison just like he had told everyone he would, pursuant to his, what he termed 'Operation Utah,'” Spencer said. “Absolutely it was a deal. In fact in his phone calls he references the deal. And of course you heard the trial testimony where he professed that there was no deal, and that he was testifying out of his moral obligation to do so.”
MacNeill was scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9, but attorneys have asked that the hearing be postponed in light of the new court filings.
And even though MacNeill attempted suicide in jail, his attorney says it was not an admission of guilt, but rather reflective of the desperation he feels facing a life sentence in prison.
“Obviously, he tried to kill himself and didn’t expect to be around,” Spencer said. “I believe he is innocent as well.”
But Michele MacNeill's sister, Linda Cluff, said she believes the attempted suicide was a "cop-out" and said her brother-in-law was looking for an easy way out after realizing he may spend the rest of his life in prison.