Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 13, 2013

Former teacher pleads guilty to multiple sex-crime charges

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — A former PikeView High School teacher arrested on multiple sexual related charges involving students pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexual abuse first-degree and multiple counts of the distribution of obscene matter to a minor.

Jonathan Kirk, 35, a former physical education teacher and coach at the school, was arrested in March and charged with 18 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 to six counts of distribution of obscene matter to a minor child and one count of sexual abuse in the first degree, said Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler. The distribution charge carries a determinate sentence of one to five years. The sexual abuse charge carries an indeterminate term of one to five years term imprisonment.

“Pursuant to the plea agreement, the state has agreed to supend three of those counts,” Sitler said after the hearing. This includes the sexual abuse charge and two of the distribution charges.

“There remain four counts the judge could sentence him to five years each on, We’re asking for those counts to be run consecutively from one to another for 20 years,” Sitler said.

Kirk will also have to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, and have post-conviction intensive supervision by sex offender-specific probation officers for 50 years, Sitler said.

“The plea deal is essentially to spare these young, tender children to having to come to court and tell a very awkward story to 12 adult strangers,” Sitler said. “These are girls who are 16 and 17 years old, and they really should not be subjected to a trial. This does subject him to 20 years of prison plus supervision for the rest of his life.”

 “I feel it is adequate under the circumstances,” Sitler said of the plea agreement. “There was no independent corroboration of any sexual contact, and there was no electronic evidence for us to submit. Mr. Kirk was clever about what he did, and he used an application on his cell phone that masked all of the electronic evidence,” Sitler added.

There were seven victims, and there could have been up to a dozen victims. Kirk could face additional charges if more victims come forward, Sitler said.

“Absolutely. This plea would not preclude any prosecution for evidence that we don’t know about at this point,” Sitler said.

The case sends a message to people trusted with children, he said.

“Children are sacred, and teachers and people in a position of trust need to honor the trust given to them by society,” Sitler stated.

 With good behavior, Kirk could be eligible for parole consideration within five years, Sitler said. If he does not make parole in five years, he could still satisfy a 20 year determinate sentence in 10 years.

“However, even if he did, he would still have the suspended sentences as an incentive for good behavior,” Sitler said. “He could go back to prison for an additional 10 plus a one to five years; also, the court has authority to impose sex offender supervision for up to 50 years.”

If Kirk has any violations during this 50-year period, he could spend the balance of the supervision period in prison, Sitler said. For example, if Kirk violated supervision during the first year, he could spend 49 or even 50 years in prison.

Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 17, 2014.

Sgt. M.D. Clemons, with the Crimes Against Children Unit of the West Virginia State Police, said in a previous report that the majority of the Kirk’s 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.

Clemons said the investigation began in December 2012 when the administrators at PikeView High School received a complaint. The principal then contacted the Mercer County Board of Education, which contacted the state police. The alleged activities, which had been happening on Internet social media, had been going on since 2010.

Kirk was under suspension from the school until the investigation was completed, Clemons said. However, he resigned before the board of education could hold a hearing to see if the suspension would be upheld.

At the time of his arrest, Kirk was residing in Walton, a community in Roane County.