Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 20, 2014

New trial date set for former PVHS coach charged with sexual abuse

PRINCETON — A new trial date was set Monday for a former PikeView High School coach charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse involving students.

Defense attorneys for Jonathan Kirk, 35, a former physical education teacher and coach at the high school, are seeking a change of venue in the case due to pre-trial publicity. Paul Cassell, a co-defense attorney representing Kirk along with Wayne Evans, said the defense was having trouble finding a company to complete a necessary survey of the county’s jury pool.

Cassell presented Circuit Court Judge William Sadler a copy of a letter from Orion Strategies of Charleston, which he said has agreed to do the jury pool survey. Cassell said the process would take at least 60 days, including 30 days to survey the jury pool.

Kirk requested a change of venue due to pre-trial publicity surrounding the investigation, including what Evans had described as “excessive” newspaper coverage on the case by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

Sadler set a new trial date in the case for July 29. Sadler said the court also would rule on the change of venue request on July 11.

Kirk said he didn’t object to the delay in the start of his trial. And Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler didn’t object to the motion to authorize the survey of the jury pool by Orion Strategies.

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 on 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 earlier reports by 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.

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 West Virginia 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 in the earlier report.

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.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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