Charity director accused of soliciting sex will go to trial

The 65-year-old director of a Half Moon Bay Catholic charity organization will go to trial for a misdemeanor charge after allegedly soliciting a woman for sex when she called him asking for employment assistance, a judge decided today in San Mateo County Superior Court.

Michael David Niece, who runs the Coastside Catholic Worker, was not present this morning when his lawyer William Johnston attended his pre-trial conference.

Niece allegedly offered the 35-year-old Half Moon Bay woman $500 for sex when they spoke on the phone Aug. 13, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

The woman, who had received help from the charity for several months, was looking for help finding a job when Niece made the offer, Wagstaffe said. The woman declined and later called Half Moon Bay police, he said.

Police then set up a sting operation, and when the woman again called, Niece he reiterated his offer, according to Wagstaffe. When she accepted, they arranged a meeting, and Niece was arrested, he said.

Wagstaffe said the sting operation would be an important part of proving the case.

“Otherwise you have a he-said, she-said,” Wagstaffe said, with the possibility that “no one’s going to believe her against an upstanding member of the community,” he added.

Niece was charged with soliciting prostitution, a charge that brings a maximum six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine if he is convicted, according to Wagstaffe.

However “on a first time offense like this one, he probably would not get the full six months if he is convicted,” Wagstaffe said.

A trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 19 and Niece remains out of custody.

According to the charity’s Web site, the Coastside Catholic Worker was founded in Half Moon Bay in 2000 by Niece and his wife, Kathy, and offers assistance, primarily to Coastside agricultural workers and their families, in the form of food, clothing, diapers, blankets and other household items.

— Bay City News

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