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Neill sentencing set for April 24-25 in two courts

Federal and state prosecutors have set sentencing for Sam Neill on successive days later this month.

Neill, the disbarred attorney facing tax evasion charges in federal court and embezzlement charges in state court, is scheduled to be sentenced April 24 U.S. District Court in Asheville. He faces judgment the next day in state court. The federal and state charges carry a maximum penalty of 87 years in prison, court officials say.
Neill, who pleaded guilty a year ago in one count of tax evasion, is scheduled to appear for sentencing at 10:20 a.m. April 24 in U.S. District Court in Asheville before Judge Martin Reidinger.
State prosecutors agreed when Neill pleaded guilty to five charges of embezzlement to go second after the federal sentencing. Neill pleaded guilty in Superior Court last September to five counts of embezzling money from estates that he was responsible for handling on behalf of the deceased for heirs and other beneficiaries. Prosecutors say he stole a total of $3 million, including $884,515 from a trust that was supposed to be evenly divided between the Community Foundation of Henderson County and Four Seasons hospice.
In the federal case, Neill pleaded guilty to failing to report $1.5 million in income in 2008 and 2009 and to owing the IRS $511,136 in taxes. He faces three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The five more serious charges in state court subject him to 84 years in prison, Superior Court Judge Lindsay R. Davis Jr. told Neill when he appeared in a Henderson County courtroom last September to plead guilty.
At that court hearing, Neill's defense attorney, the renowned Raleigh trial lawyer Joseph B. Cheshire V, said that the former UNC Board of Governors member and two-time Democratic nominee for Congress had signed over promissory notes and deeds of trust sufficient to cover the trust losses.
"He's given securities," Cheshire said. "You can't turn those securities into money. I would imagine if the world gets better, they'll get higher (in value). All I can tell you is they've been secured and their losses have been covered."
When told of the defense lawyer's promise after the court appearance, the Community Foundation's lawyer, Robert Haggard, said, "Ask him if he'll guarantee that."
Reports by the Hendersonville Lightning have raised questions about whether the real estate holdings have the value that Neill claims they have and whether they are too encumbered to be liquidated for the trusts.