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State objects to representation request

PORTSMOUTH — A Portsmouth attorney who was indicted last year on human trafficking and prostitution charges is representing himself in court and the state is not happy with that.

Last March, Michael Mearan, 74, was investigated by a human trafficking task force as part of Ohio Attorney General David Yost’s Organized Crime Investigations Commission.

In October 2020, Mearan was indicted on 18 charges, some dating back to 2005, including one count of first-degree felony of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; three counts of first-degree felony of trafficking in persons; five counts of first-degree felony compelling prostitution; and nine counts of promoting prostitution. If convicted on all charges, he faces more than 70 years in prison. Indictments merely contain allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless proved guilty in a court of law.

The case has been assigned to Patricia A. Crosgrove, a former Summit County Common Pleas judge who retired in 2011 and is assigned to cases by the Ohio Supreme Court as a special judge.

The case is still in the pre-trial hearing phase with no trial date set yet.

In November, Mearan gave the court notice that he would be representing himself in the trial to be held in Scioto County Common Pleas Court. On Jan. 20, the state filed a motion to deny Mearan’s request to represent himself.

In their objection, the state wrote that it “continues to object, for several reasons. First, Defendant indicated he may be sitting as “co-counsel,” which is considered hybrid representation and is strictly prohibited by the Ohio Supreme Court. Second, the Defendant is attempting to manipulate the rules of discovery and the victims in this case, and should not be permitted to represent himself on those grounds. Third, Defendant is still subject to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and his pro se request creates a conflict of interest, as he has represented all of the victims and many of the witnesses in prior court proceedings.”

Judge Crosgrove will have to decide on the matter.

Senior assistant attorney general Joel T. King, of the Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section, has been assigned as the special prosecutor in the case.

A call to the Ohio Attorney General’s office seeking comment about Mearan representing himself was not returned by press time.

In March 2020, Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) executed a search warrant at Mearan’s Sixth Street office, next to the Scioto County Courthouse in downtown Portsmouth. The media reported Yost was at the scene and at the time, BCI did not give a reason for the raid.

In late 2018, the Cincinnati Enquirer investigated long-time rumors of Mearan being involved in the trafficking of women for sexual purposes and talked to women who claimed they were prostituted to officials in return for a number of things, including money and reduced sentences in criminal cases.

After The Enquirer’s story was published, BCI began investigating the case and reflects what was initially outlined in a sealed federal wiretap affidavit issued as part of a separate Drug Enforcement Administration investigation several years ago. That document, obtained by The Enquirer in early 2018, includes accounts of Mearan sending women to Florida and other states to have sex for money. That investigation resulted in eight drug convictions, but Mearan was never charged. The DEA said it had handed any notes on Mearan over to the FBI, and it is not clear what happened to any follow-ups from authorities.