Potential jurors considered

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – A total of 75 people are being called in to serve as potential jurors for this month’s trial involving Belmont County Commissioner Matthew D. Coffland, court officers said Friday.

Coffland, 54, of Shadyside is set to face one charge of assaulting a peace officer – a fourth degree felony – during a trial scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 17 at the Belmont County Courthouse. Coffland, his attorney Patrick Cassidy of Wheeling, and Special Prosecutor Thomas Hampton met privately Friday in chambers for a final status conference.

The logistics of the trial were discussed, Hampton said, and he acknowledged calling in 75 potential jurors for the trial was a high number.

“Usually, they would call about 40,” Hampton said. “But because of the publicity, and because Mr. Coffland is a public official, they are calling more. (Potential jurors) might know his name.”

Coffland faces re-election Nov. 6, and currently has signs and election literature distributed through the county. Cassidy requested a trial prior to the election.

Monroe County Judge James Peters will serve as visiting judge.

Charges filed by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the enforcement arm for the Ohio Bureau of Liquor Control, allege that on July 26 Coffland threw a full “can or bottle” containing an “unknown fluid” at a liquor control agent while at the Jamboree In The Hills venue near Morristown. The bottle struck the agent in the head, and the liquid splashed other agents, according to the citation.

Coffland was charged with assault on a peace officer and disorderly conduct while intoxicated. Liquor control agents had previously 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 his 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.

Hampton said Friday no further legal action regarding the misdemeanor charges will take place until after the trial on the single felony offense.