ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Belmont County Commissioner Matthew D. Coffland pleaded innocent Thursday in Belmont County Common Pleas Court to the charge of assault on a peace officer, a fourth-degree felony.
Judge Jennifer Sargus announced a pretrial conference in the case has been set for Sept. 17, with a trial scheduled for Nov. 7 - the day after the general election in which Coffland seeks re-election to a second term.
But Wheeling attorney Patrick Cassidy, representing Coffland, asked the court that the trial be moved and set prior to Election Day.
Photo by Joselyn King
Belmont County Commissioner Matthew D. Coffland, right, confers with his attorney, Patrick Cassidy of Wheeling, before his arraignment in Belmont County Common Pleas Court Thursday.
Sargus said Cassidy should speak with the court administrator regarding the court date. Retired Perry County Common Pleas Court Judge Linton D. Lewis has been appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the case.
Also Thursday, special Prosecutor Thomas Hampton agreed to a continuance of Coffland's bond but sought to add some restrictions to the original bond conditions. Cassidy objected to those changes.
The added restrictions would have placed Coffland under a curfew from midnight to 6 a.m. Cassidy said it would be difficult for Coffland to abide by such a curfew because, in his jobs as commissioner and as a bar owner, Coffland often responds to incidents that occur during those hours.
Hampton also asked for Coffland to be subject to drug and alcohol testing.
"Mr. Coffland is a known person in the community," Cassidy said regarding that request. "He works in this building every day. You're submitting him to harassing conduct."
Hampton replied that the proposed restrictions were standard in such cases.
Sargus opted to continue the original bond agreement without the curfew or drug testing requirement and to allow Lewis to decide "what is best for the state of Ohio."
"The court will review and amend the entry as needed," she said.
Coffland was charged with assault on a peace officer and disorderly conduct while intoxicated following incidents at Jamboree In The Hills on July 20. Charges filed by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the enforcement arm for the Ohio Bureau of Liquor Control, allege that Coffland threw a full "can or bottle" containing an "unknown fluid" at a liquor control agent while at the JITH venue near Morristown.
The bottle struck the agent in the head, and the liquid splashed other agents, according to the citation.
Coffland posted $5,000 bond on the assault offense and $175 on the disorderly conduct charge before being released from the Belmont County Jail.
Prior to the incident, liquor control agents had filed unrelated legal action against Coffland, 54, and his son, Matthew B. Coffland, 29, resulting from incidents at the family's Tiger Pub bar in Shadyside last spring.
The elder Coffland has said agents entered the bar just before 2 a.m. April 1 and began asking patrons for identification. He said he announced to patrons that liquor control agents were present, and that he was closing the bar before the normal 2:20 a.m. time.
Agents charged the Cofflands each with three misdemeanor offenses: knowingly or recklessly hindering or obstructing an agent or employee of the Ohio Division of Liquor Control; knowingly - with purpose to hinder the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment of another for a crime - warning other persons of impending discovery or apprehension; and knowingly and without privilege - with the purpose to prevent, obstruct or delay the performance by a public official of an authorized act - performing an act that hampered or impeded a public official in the performance of the public official's duties.