A defense attorney for a former PikeView High School teacher charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse involving students said Wednesday he may seek a change of venue in the case due to pre-trial media publicity.
Wayne Evans, defense counsel for Jonathan Kirk, 35, a former physical education teacher and coach at the high school, also introduced a motion during Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing for a severance of charges — or essentially eight individual trials for Kirk. Evans argued that having all eight juvenile victims to testify against Kirk in one trial would be prejudicial to the defendant.
Circuit Court Judge William Sadler rejected a proposed plea deal last month for Kirk. Sadler said the plea agreement didn’t take into account Kirk’s position as a teacher, and how that position allowed him to pressure the victims to do what he wanted them to do.
Under the rejected plea agreement, Kirk would have faced 20 years in prison with the possibility of being released within 10 years, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler said in an earlier interview. Kirk now faces 19 charges and much a lengthier prison sentence if convicted on the charges.
Kirk was arrested in March 2013 and charged with 19 felony charges including multiple counts of use of obscene matter with intent to seduce a minor; use of minors in filming sexually explicit conduct; distribution and display to minors of obscene matter; sexual abuse by a parent or custodian; and soliciting a minor via computer.
Kirk pleaded guilty Nov. 12, 2013, to six counts of distribution of obscene matter to a minor and one count of first-degree sexual abuse. The charges carry a maximum of five years in prison on each count.
Kirk admitted to sharing sexually explicit imagery with seven victims and touching one victim intimately, but more sexual contact was alleged in the indictment. Two victims alleged actual sexual conduct, according to Sitler.
In a previous report, Sgt. M.D. Clemons, with the Crimes Against Children Unit of the West Virginia State Police, said the majority of the charges stemmed from events that occurred on the school grounds and the alleged victims were female students between the ages of 16 and 18 years old.