Coffland to receive earlier trial

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Belmont County Commissioner Matthew D. Coffland will face trial for an alleged assault on a peace officer before he faces a challenge for his seat on Election Day.

Coffland is seeking a second term on the commission. Independent candidates Jerry Echemann and Doug Longenette also are running for the seat.

Coffland’s trial initially had been set for Nov. 7 – one day after the election. His attorney, Patrick Cassidy, however, asked the court to reschedule the trial for a date prior to Nov. 6.

Special Prosecutor Thomas Hampton said that request was granted Monday by retired Perry County Common Pleas Court Judge Linton D. Lewis, who was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the case after Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Sargus recused herself. Hampton said the state did not object to the change.

According to Hampton, a pretrial status conference is set for 11 a.m. Oct. 5 with the trial to occur Oct. 17. He said no other action took place during a pretrial hearing Monday.

Coffland has pleaded innocent to the fourth-degree felony charge. He 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 that 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 of obstructing.