Update, 1:33 p.m.: Former Portsmouth, Ohio city councilman and practicing attorney Michael Mearan appeared Monday afternoon in Scioto County Common Pleas Court for arraignment on 18 charges, including sex trafficking.
Mearan entered a plea of not guilty and a $300,000 bond was set by visiting judge Patricia Cosgrove.
Previous reporting: Former Portsmouth, Ohio, city councilman and still-practicing attorney Michael Mearan is scheduled for a Monday afternoon arraignment after he was arrested Friday on multiple charges related to human trafficking.
He will be given the chance to enter a plea, and a judge will set a bond.
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Mearan, 74, faces nine counts of promoting prostitution, five counts of compelling prostitution, three counts of human trafficking and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, according to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
All of those charges are felonies and stem from criminal activity that occurred from 2003 to 2018 involving six victims, prosecutors said. If convicted, Yost said Mearan faces more than 70 years in prison.
Mearan was the focus of an Enquirer investigative report last year into sex trafficking in the small city 100 miles east of Cincinnati along the Ohio River. The Scioto County Jail confirmed he was booked Friday afternoon.
The Enquirer interviewed Mearan twice during the investigation. He consistently denied the allegations.
Monday marks Mearan’s first court appearance as a defendant in the case. He was held without bond through the weekend.
Monday morning Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost held a press conference addressing the state’s collective effort, “Autumn Hope,” to halt sex trafficking in the state.
Yost said the timing of the indictment of Mearan was coincidental and that case was not part of the operation, but that Mearan’s case was special in that he had knowledge and power within the legal system to take advantage of alleged victims.
Prior to the Me Too era, the stories of victims could be discredited due to previous criminal charges or addiction, Yost said. In the investigation into Mearan, very similar stories were toover and over by six women who did not know each other, the attorney general said.
When asked by The Enquirer what prompted his office to investigate the allegations in Portsmouth, Yost said it would be “inappropriate to try this case in the media.