Man convicted of City Hall shooting

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 15, 2000

RIVERSIDE — A man convicted of trying to kill the mayor, two council members and a policeman during a shooting spree at City Hall must now attempt to convince the jury he was insane when he committed the crimes. 

Joseph Neale Jr., 50, was found guilty Monday of 12 counts of premeditated attempted murder. He had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. In a sanity phase beginning Wednesday, the jurors who convicted him will contemplate whether he should go to prison or to a state hospital. 

Neale, a U.S. Postal Service worker who was reportedly angry over losing his job as a part-time chess coach at a city recreation center, entered a City Hall meeting room and began shooting on Oct. 6, 1998. 

After Neale had opened fire, calls from police outside the room drew him away from where the wounded mayor and several City Council members were trapped. Police shot and wounded the gunman through a blocked door and rescued the hostages. 

Mayor Ron Loveridge, Councilman Chuck Beaty, Councilwomen Laura Pearson and now-retired police Sgt. Wally Rice, one of the rescuers, all recovered from injuries. 

Councilman Chuck Beaty, who was the most seriously injured, dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief as the verdicts were read Monday. Retired Sgt. Wally Rice also rubbed his eyes and embraced Beaty. 

Deputy Public Defender Lawrence Fait said he was “terribly disappointed” in the verdicts. 

“It’s not over yet,” Fait added, referring to the sanity phase. “I have several doctors who are convinced he was insane at the time. You never give up hope.” 

Neale showed no visible signs of emotion as the verdicts were read, and occasionally wrote on a legal pad.  

Because there were so many charges and multiple findings of fact, the reading took 35 minutes. 

Supervising Deputy District Attorney William Mitchell had argued that Neale acted like a terrorist and planned to kill everyone in the room to bring nationwide attention to his belief that America poorly educates black children. 

Fait had sought to convince jurors that there was reasonable doubt that Neale intended to kill that day. Fait has said Neale only wanted to take the city leadership hostage so they would have to listen to him. 

Neale had filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city in 1995 blaming age and race for his firing as a chess coach. Neale is black. 

Testimony in the sanity phase is expected to last about a day. If Neale is found to have been insane at the time of the shootings, he would be sent to Patton State Hospital near San Bernardino for treatment. If not, he would face as many as 14 life terms in connection with the attack, and could be sentenced early next year.