Murder Suspect Could Face Robbery Charge

November 30, 2018

WILKES-BARRE — With the trial date fast approaching, county prosecutors are seeking to add a robbery charge against murder suspect Antoine McNeal.

McNeal, 34, is set to stand trial Monday on criminal homicide charges alleging he gunned down Brandon Smith, 20, outside his West Church Street, Nanticoke, home on Jan. 18, 2017.

In a motion filed this week, prosecutors say that in a phone call recorded at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, McNeal indicated that Smith had 30-milligram oxycodone pills in his pocket at the time of the shooting.

“The (expletive) had other drugs in his pocket so evidently someone else was coming to see him besides me,” the motion quotes McNeal as saying.

But prosecutors say Smith did not have the pills in his pocket when police found him. That indicates that McNeal robbed Smith of the pills prior to fleeing the scene, says the motion filed by assistant district attorneys William T. Finnegan Jr. and Thomas J. Hogans.

But McNeal’s defense counters that adding a robbery charge that McNeal has not had a chance to address at a preliminary hearing violates court rules. The response also says McNeal will be prejudiced if the court allows the addition of a last-minute robbery charge — which could open the door for a second-degree murder case — mere days from the start of trial.

“The sole basis of the commonwealth’s amended count of robbery is based upon an alleged statement of the defendant,” attorney Demetrius W. Fannick wrote in the filing. “Said statement would be inadmissible as evidence against the defendant without the commonwealth first and independently establishing that a crime of robbery was committed.”

The matter is set for a hearing before Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley today.

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