PORTSMOUTH — Held in jail since Friday, Portsmouth attorney and former city councilman Michael Mearan pleaded not guilty to 18 charges related to human trafficking Monday.
Beginning at 1 p.m. in the Scioto County Common Pleas Court, the arraignment resulted in visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove setting his bond at $300,000 and a Nov. 2 date for pre-trial.
Defending Mearan, attorney Richard Nash listed multiple reasons to grant his client a personal recognizance bond, meaning that Mearan would not have to pay $300,000 unless he failed to show up in court.
Nash asked the judge to consider his family ties, employment, financial resources, character, record of convictions, among others, in her decision. Mearan has no prior history of arrests.
“All of these factors go in favor of Mr. Mearan,” said Nash, who with Mearan was physically present while Cosgrove and the State Prosecutor Jennifer Rausch tuned in via Zoom.
Financially, the defense claimed that Mearan was stretched thin due to supporting one of his two children, who live with him in Portsmouth. Nearing retirement at the age of 74, Mearan has a smaller caseload and his income is based almost entirely on Social Security.
Mearan is also behind in his taxes, said Nash, a PortsmouthDailyTimessearch of the Scioto County auditor’s Delinquent Owner database revealing that he owed $2,582 in property taxes as of Oct. 19, 2020.
Nash wanted particular emphasis from the court to be placed regarding his client’s health, who has been a diabetic since 2000 and diagnosed with congestive heart failure that same year.
“Our hope and our wish is that one day he will be able to fight these charges and have his day in court,” said Nash. “My concern is that, if he is held in jail, we may not reach that day.”
In the prosecution’s response, Rausch painted a picture of Mearan as someone who had violated the law for many years and openly boasted about it to victims. The decision to grant bond discouraged her as an “incentive” to the defense.
“He’s been investigated before…he seems to be able to escape accountability,” said Rausch. “He’s been able to get away with this behavior for at least 15 years.”
The prosecution countered the defense’s evidence of financial security with additional information disclosed to the court. Mearan, they said, received regular amounts of cash, sometimes from out-of-state contributors, and made nearly 80 trips to Florida throughout an undisclosed period of time.
Ultimately, Cosgrove granted Mearan a cash surety bond, which requires him to pay $300,000 or hire a surety or bondsman to pay a portion of that amount as insurance that he will be present in the courtroom.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Scioto County Prosecutor Shane Tieman announced charges against Mearan Friday, which took place between 2003 and 2018. Through a year’s long investigation, the human trafficking task force of the Organized Crime Investigations Commission listed the following charges which led to his indictment:
· One count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity (F1)
· Three counts of trafficking in persons (F1)
· Five counts of compelling prostitution (F3)
· Nine counts of promoting prostitution (F4)
If convicted, Mearan would face more than 70 years in prison. The task force consisted of representatives from the Portsmouth Police Department, Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence Unit and Ohio Investigative Unit, and the Attorney General’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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