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King running back faces theft charges

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002

A King standout known for breaking tackles is in trouble with the law. The alleged crime: breaking into cars.

Raymond Neal, 17, was arrested June 13 and originally charged with two counts of grand theft and two counts of auto burglary.

But after further investigation, police charged Neal with 10 more counts of auto and property-related theft, Temple Terrace Police Lt. William Daggett said.

Neal, a junior, was second in the county in rushing last season with 1,498 yards and was a Times all-county first-team selection.

King coach Joe Severino was disappointed when contacted Thursday night. He said the star back has been watched by Division I recruiters since his freshman year.

"It's a shame to be honest," he said.

Severino said he doesn't know why, but in the spring semester Neal's work ethic on the field and in the classroom declined. He was attending summer school with the hope of improving his grades so he could be eligible to play in the fall, Severino said.

But now, Neal will most likely miss next season.

Should Neal somehow become eligible, Severino said he wouldn't render any further punishment.

"If he comes back and meets all the qualifications like everyone else, he can play," he said. "I'm not into double jeopardy, punishing a guy twice."

If he doesn't come back, Severino and his team will move on.

"He's a game-breaker," Severino said. "But we got a lot of other players besides Raymond."

Mark Hart, spokesman for Hillsborough County Schools, said the county will not take any immediate action until the case is resolved.

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