Michael Cline has been in jail for nearly a year on a $500,000 cash only bond. He was recently re-indicted on charges of child porn from a year ago and the judge that has denied his requests for a reduction in bond reluctantly did so on Wednesday. A street ministry conducted regularly in the shadow of the former Hot Cup Coffee Shop in downtown Logan.
LOGAN A new trial date and a lower bond has been set for the case of Michael Cline. The 48-year-old former operator of the Hot Cup coffee shop in downtown Logan is accused of multiple felony counts. 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.
The charges make up two superseding indictments handed down by a Logan County Grand Jury on January eleventh of this year. The new indictments supplant the indictments handed down by a grand jury in the spring of 2023.
The trial was set to begin on February twelfth; however, the new indictments have set the beginning of the trial back to April fifteenth.
Cline’s attorneys, Matthew Hatfield and Susan Van Zant, previously raised issues with the grand jury that indicted Cline last year.
“We just had some issues with the arrangement on the grand jury and the array of the grand jurors, but we ended up not being able to argue that because of this new indictment,” Hatfield told WVOW News following Wednesday’s hearing at the Logan County Courthouse.
Susan Van Zant said the state was motivated to indict Cline again.
“They realized based upon the motion that was filed that there were some issues,” Van Zant said.
One of the main differences from last year’s indictments to the indictments this year is a charge of second-degree sexual assault. Last year’s grand jury indicted Cline on a single count of sexual assault in the second degree. That charge no longer stands with the new indictments handed down this year.
Logan County Prosecuting Attorney David Wandling said presenting to the grand jury this year had nothing to do with motions filed by the defense to dismiss.
“Without acknowledging that anything was done incorrectly or that there were insufficient facts,” Wandling said, “we presented these cases to the grand jury because we wanted to add some of the charges that are in the new indictments.”
“The 2023 grand jury returned a true bill on the sexual assaults which were originally set for trial in two weeks and a new grand jury did not,” Wandling said. “I can’t get into a lot the things that happen before the grand jury. Those matters are secret, but it’s no secret following today that a true bill was not returned on the sexual assaults.”
An additional charge of sexual assault in the first degree alleged back in 2001 has never been indicted by the grand jury and is set to be dismissed after one year.
Allegations on social media by victims began circulating the evening of Saturday, January 21, 2023. Hot Cup Coffee Shop in the White and Browning Building in downtown Logan has not been open since. Cline rechristened the building Stark Tower after he purchased it in 2021. State Police served a search warrant on the building a week later on January 27.
One of the victims in the case, identified as AK, was involved with Cline in a years-long relationship. She alleged that she sent nude photos of herself to the Cline between November 2015 and February 2016 when she turned eighteen. Moreover, the victim told police she was seventeen at times when the suspect took pictures of her nude or in bondage. The complaint also chronicles videos of sexual acts sent to Cline while the victim, was a student at Man High School.
The indictment associated with the second victim, identified as KL, stems from an investigation that began in August 2020. An Internet Crimes Against Children case was assigned to Sergeant T.D. Boggs of the Logan Detachment of State Police. A cyber tip alleged a seventeen-year-old victim was sending nude photos to Cline through social media platform Facebook.
Cline was first arrested a year ago on February ninth and has been incarcerated ever since. Cline has tried multiple times to get the $500,000 cash only bond reduced and failed. He even appealed the bond reduction to the West Virginia Supreme Court and attempted to get Judge Joshua Butcher recused from the case. Those attempts failed.
Cline pleaded not guilty to the superseding indictments Wednesday.
According to the defense, Cline has no criminal record and has only ever lived in Logan or Mingo counties. The defense requested a $100,000 surety bond and stated that the defendant’s mother and aunt were prepared to put up their homes to facilitate Cline’s release pending trial.
The prosecution agreed to the bond on the condition of home confinement, no use of social media and no contact with the victims.
“I still maintain that is a reasonable amount of bond,” Wandling told the court,” I believe it provides adequate safeguards for the community, adequate safeguards for the alleged victims in this case and I continue to have no objection to this court granting Mr. Cline’s motion to a $100,000 surety bond.”
Presiding Judge Joshua Butcher while setting bond said that a change in charges should be considered.
“Previously,” Judge Butcher said, “this court’s denial of bond was based upon the extreme risk of danger to the public and particularly the children of Logan County.”
Butcher said the court’s analysis included the consideration of the second-degree assault and the continued investigations into additional allegations. Butcher said absent those violent charges a new bond should be set.
“The reality though remains that the nature of the charges in this new indictment are disturbing, if they were found to have occurred in this case, as they would constitute sex crimes against children just not ones of violence.”
Bond was set at $100,000 with a ten percent cash or surety alternative.
Butcher concluded his ruling saying he was reluctant in setting the bond lower.
“Frankly,” Butcher said, “I’m dissatisfied with it in light of the knowledge of what was a previous grand jury’s finding of probable cause to support a crime of violence. But operating in the case as it appears now, the court will see fit to rule as I have.”
According to Cline’s mother, everything is in place for his release.
PHOTO | File