By KERRY CRAIG
News-Telegram Staff Writer
Longtime Sulphur Springs physician Don Martin O'Neal surrendered himself to Hopkins County Sheriff's Department Friday morning for violating terms of his probation by failing to pay more than $817,000 in restitution.
The embattled physician, in a plea bargain agreement, entered a plea of guilty in district court to a first-degree felony offense of misapplication of fiduciary property of more than $200,000 and was ordered to pay the restitution by Aug. 12 of last year.
O'Neal, through attorney Heath Hyde, indicated a desire to appeal that decision and 8th Judicial District Judge Robert Newsom put into place an injunction at that time ordering O'Neal to not divest himself of any assets or financial resources.
The restitution order was appealed and, in March, was affirmed by an appeals court.
O'Neal's attorney then filed a motion to amend the conditions of probation, asking for more time to pay the restitution.
The motion was denied by Judge Eddie Northcutt (who took Newsom’s spot on the bench in January), which meant the restitution should have been paid by July 1.
Special prosecutor Martin Braddy said the doctor submitted a deed as payment for the restitution.
“On July 1, the defendant [O'Neal] presented a purported warranty deed for some property to the probation office as payment of the restitution amount,” Braddy said. “That is not appropriate payment, and it was not accepted. He was ordered to pay in dollars and he did not. I filed a motion to find that tender of restitution to be unacceptable and presented that to the court and decided earlier this week I would just file a motion to adjudicate his probation for failing to live up to the order to pay restitution as a condition of his probation.”
Braddy said the deed was for property O'Neal did not own and which was involved in a civil suit.
“The interesting part about that is he named property that is not even titled in his name,” Braddy explained. “It was a deed that was not a deed. It appears the thought behind it was that he would offer up to the court his interest in some property owned by the victims which, obviously, is not acceptable because he does not own it and you can't deed property you do not own.”
Following the filing of the motions by Braddy, a warrant for O'Neal's arrest was issued by Northcutt on Thursday.
O'Neal's attorney, Heath Hyde, said the doctor turned himself in at the county jail this morning and bond was set at $25,000. Hyde said he was arranging bond and that O'Neal should be released from jail today.
Braddy said it was his intent to ask the court to adjudicate the probation and sentence O'Neal to prison. The range of punishment on the first-degree felony offense is from five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
No date has been set by the district court to hear the motion to issue judgment in the case.
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