Charity director pleads no contest to soliciting prostitution

The 65-year-old director of a Half Moon Bay Catholic charity organization pleaded no contest today in San Mateo Superior Court in Redwood City to one misdemeanor charge of soliciting a woman to engage in an act of prostitution.

Michael David Niece, who runs The Coastside Catholic Worker, allegedly offered a 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.

Niece will not be sentenced to more than 10 days in jail due to a previous arrangement between the court and the counselors, Deputy District Attorney Morris Maya said outside court today. Maya said he will be in contact with the victim to see if she has any comments regarding Niece’s sentence.

“We will definitely be asking for the full 10 days,” Maya said.

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

It was “a very big betrayal of trust,” Maya said.

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

Niece’s attorney William Johnston said after the hearing he had received many letters from other charity workers extolling Niece’s virtues, and that “it is what it is.” Johnson presented the letters to Judge Carl Holm, who will preside over Niece’s sentencing later this month.

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.

“We are not a charity in the traditional sense and the ministry is not just about giving handouts,” the Web site said. “It is about walking with our brothers and sisters in need, trying to live lives of ‘active love’ and taking personal responsibility in addressing struggles in life.”

Niece will reappear in court Dec. 27 at 9 a.m. for his sentencing.

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