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Michael Cline trial delayed for defense to perform forensic analysis of digital evidence

Michael Cline exits the Logan County Courthouse Tuesday, March 26th following a hearing. Cline faces charges of distribution, exhibition and solicitation of minors for sexually explicit conduct. He previously operated the Hot Cup Coffee Shop in downtown Logan until his arrest following online allegations in a social media group.

AM Stone | WVOW News

LOGAN  The trial of a former downtown Logan coffee shop owner has been delayed once again.

The trial of Michael Cline has been through numerous delays over the last year, and now the April fifteenth start date for his trial has been continued following a motions hearing Tuesday in Logan Circuit Court.

Cline was arrested in February of 2023 and has since been indicted by two separate grand juries. He is currently charged under a superseding indictment from a Logan County Grand Jury back in January. The charges include three counts of distribution and exhibition of material depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct; three counts of soliciting a minor via computer to engage the minor in prohibited sexual activity; and two counts of use of minors in filming sexually explicit conduct.

Defense attorneys on Tuesday filed two motions before the court of Judge Joshua Butcher. The first motion, argued by defense attorney Matthew Hatfield, concerned funding for a forensic expert data analysis of the copious amount of digital evidence.

“I have spent quite some time trying to find somebody, a computer expert, to look over the digital data the state has provided to give me some various opinions,” Hatfield told the court.

Hatfield said that Second Creek Technologies, LLC in Barboursville is willing to do the work, but the court needed to approve public defender funds to pay for the expert opinion.  Rojas v. Wilkes, WV SOA, No.22599, 1995.

The defense also motioned for a continuance on the April fifteenth trial to give time for the analysis to be completed. Moreover, Hatfield and co-council Susan Van Zant told the court there hasn’t been an opportunity with scheduling to review evidence with the prosecution.

Logan County Prosecuting Attorney David Wandling said he had no objection to the motions even though he contended that similar motions were already granted last summer.

“I’m not going to object,” Wandling responded to the court. “The last thing I would want to have happen here is, after Mr. Cline is ultimately convicted, for him to go to the Supreme Court and say ‘I wouldn’t have been convicted… if I had an opportunity to hire an expert witness.’

Wandling continued and said the discovery is available to the defense and he is willing to work through the thousands of pieces of evidence with them.

Judge Butcher granted both motions and a status hearing will be conducted in thirty days.

Cline was previously released from jail when his $500,000 cash only bond was lowered to $100,000 cash or surety. The bond was lowered after sexual assault charges were dismissed with the superseding indictments in January.

PHOTO | AM Stone



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