By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A former Mercer County teacher and coach facing 18 felony charges waived his right to a preliminary hearing Monday in exchange for a chance to see the state’s evidence against him.
Jonathan Kirk, 34, of Walton, showed no emotion and stared straight ahead as he was escorted past reporters and into magistrate court. Kirk, who met briefly with defense attorney Wayne Evans in a magistrate court holding area, agreed to waive his preliminary hearing in exchange for the right to review the state’s evidence against him before the case is formally presented to a grand jury.
“Mr. Kirk has waived his preliminary (hearing),” Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John McGinnis said. “So the case will now proceed to the June grand jury.”
Kirk, a former teacher and coach at PikeView High School, is 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, according to an earlier report by Sgt. M.D. Clemons with the Crimes Against Children Unit of the West Virginia State Police.
McGinnis said Kirk requested a waiver of the preliminary hearing in exchange for an early discovery. The early discovery request would make evidence in the case available for the defense at an earlier time.
“There was an agreement for a waiver in exchange for early discovery,” McGinnis said. “That means that we would make any statements, or other evidence we have in our possession, available for defense attorneys for their inspection. Typically, the defense would not be entitled to that until after the grand jury.”
McGinnins said the early discovery would also benefit the state by allowing prosecutors to proceed at a quicker pace with the case if Kirk is indicted by the grand jury.
McGinnis said Kirk remains incarcerated on a $100,000 cash only bond. A bond hearing for Kirk will be held Thursday before Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope.
Kirk was a former physical education teacher and coach at the school, who worked with the baseball and football teams. All the alleged victims were female students between the ages of 16 and 18 years old, according to Clemons.
Clemons said the majority of the charges stem from events that occurred on the school grounds.
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, according to Clemons.
Kirk is facing years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. Use of obscene matters with intent to seduce a minor carries up to five years and a fine of up to $25,000. Kirk is facing three counts of this charge.
Use of a minor in filming sexually explicit conduct carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 fine. Kirk is facing three counts on this charge.
The charges also include three counts of distribution and display to a minor of obscene matter. Each carries up to five years and a $25,000 fine. Four counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian each carries up to 10 to 20 years in prison and a $500 to $5,000 fine.
Soliciting a minor by a computer has a penalty of two to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Kirk is facing five counts on that charge.
The investigation is continuing. Kirk was remanded back to the custody of the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver following Monday’s hearing.