BELLAIRE - Matthew D. Coffland and Matthew B. Coffland, owners and operators of The Tiger Pub in Shadyside, were convicted Tuesday on one of three counts of obstructing when they appeared before Judge James Peters and by a jury of their peers.
The jury was limited to six members. Jury questioning saw the elimination of a number of potential jurors but defense co-counsel Patrick Cassidy, representing the elder Coffland, and Kevin Flanagan, representing the younger, gave the OK to proceed with six.
The pair faced three charges stemming from an April 1, 2012, incident at The Tiger Pub on Central Avenue in Shadyside when Ohio liquor control agents conducted an undercover investigation on the premises after receiving reports of underage drinking taking place.
According to the prosecution and its two witnesses, Agents Sam Love and Christopher Jones:
After all had quieted down that night, Jones testified that he again had talked with Matthew D. Coffland about the civil citations he was given for obstruction. Love filled out the official paperwork and he and Jones submitted it to the prosecutor's office to see what, if any, criminal charges would be filed.
The three charges both Cofflands faced were: obstructing inspection or search of premises prohibited, obstructing justice and obstructing official business. All three are misdemeanor charges.
The defense took issue with a few points of the agents' testimonies:
During cross-examination, Flanagan got Love to admit that the elder Coffland's decision to announce the liquor control's presence could have been done to protect the safety of all involved and that there was no way to prove it was done solely to alert any potential underage drinkers that it was time to vacate the premises.
The defense called several witnesses, including the disc jockey, a bartender, a regular patron who was present that evening, along with both Cofflands.
Defense witnesses testified that:
During cross-examination, Special Prosecutor Thomas Hampton took exception with Coffland's statement that he didn't know that Jones was a liquor control agent, stating that only one of two people would be inquiring about identification: bar staff or liquor control agents. Coffland agreed with that statement.
Peters, who is from Monroe County and presiding over the case on special assignment because of Matt D. Coffland's position as Belmont County commissioner, said that probation officer Jason Harter will be in contact with the two defendants and sentencing will take place at a later date. Like Peters, Hampton too is primarily based in Monroe County and was specially assigned to the case.
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