Michael David Coffey

Michael David Coffey

PRINCETON -— An attorney requested additional time Tuesday to prepare the defense of a Mercer County man charged with inflicting severe injuries that left a 5-month-old infant blind.

Michael David Coffey, 31, of Bluefield appeared for a hearing before Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope. Coffey was charged in April with child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, a charge which carries a possible sentence to two to 10 years in prison.

The case began on April 12, 2018 when a nurse with Carillon Roanoke Memorial Hospital contacted Senior Trooper D.B. Whited with the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment about a 5-month-old child who had been transported from Princeton Community Hospital. Physicians told investigators that the child had severe injuries including retinal hemorrhages in both eyes, a stroke, a skull fracture and other broken bones. All the injuries were described as “non-accidental.”

Whited testified last May during a preliminary hearing that the child was blind as the result of injuries, and that this would be a permanent disability. Coffey is not the child’s biological father. During a May 4, 2018 interview with Whited, Coffey said he was watching the infant while his girlfriend, the child’s mother, was at work. Coffey said the infant started vomiting through his nose and mouth after being changed and fed. The infant’s mother took him to Princeton Community Hospital when she came home from work.

Attorney John Byrd, who is representing Coffey, told the court Tuesday that the defense had received a medical report about the infant’s injuries, but needed to have them examined by an expert. An expert from Richmond, Va., would look at them. Byrd said he would need until the next court term to prepare his client’s case.

“This is an extremely serious injury to this child, which is horrific,” Swope said, adding that this had to be balanced with the defendant’s right to have an effective defense.

Paul Cassell, special prosecutor for crimes against children, said the state would need time as well for an expert to examine the infant’s medical report.

“Does your client understand the right to a speedy trial?” Swope asked Byrd. “Does he want to give that up?”

Coffey did not object to his trial’s delay. Swope said the courts had several cases awaiting trial.

Swope said there was going to be “a longer delay than I like due to the magnitude of the case load,” and would “reluctantly” reschedule it for January 2020. The trial had been scheduled to start in early October. Swope scheduled a pretrial hearing for mid-December to address any issues which could come up before trial.

“Anything we’ve got to fight over, we’re going to fight over on that day, and that’s going to be it,” Swope said. “If you want a speedy trial...you’ve come to the right place.”

Coffey is currently free on bond.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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