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Attorney violates bond

Mearan on house arrest after taking on new clients

PORTSMOUTH — A Portsmouth attorney and former city councilman has been put on house arrest after the judge in his case was notified Michael Mearan had taken on new clients, a violation of his bond agreement that got him out of jail.

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.

Mearan has pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released from jail on bond.

The case was assigned to a special judge since Mearan has worked as an attorney in the Scioto County courts for decades. Patricia A. Crosgrove, a retired former Summit County Common Pleas judge, was assigned to the cases by the Ohio Supreme Court as a special judge.

Mearan was originally representing himself, which the state objected to because those that would be testifying are his alleged victims and he would be allowed to question them.

The court was notified by the Portsmouth Municipal Court that Mearan had appeared as attorney on a civil case on Feb. 3 and when asked what his status as attorney was, Mearan said he was still an attorney as far as he knew. Two days before, a motion had been filed to strip Mearan of his law license.

On Feb. 5, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended Mearan’s license for “an interim period” and he was to “immediately cease and desist from the practice of law in any form and that respondent is hereby forbidden to appear on behalf of another.” He was also to notify any clients that he could no longer represent them, refund any fees and return any legal documents.

Cosgrove sentenced Mearan to house arrest. His house and law office is located next to the Scioto County Courthouse.

His next hearing is set for May 5.

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.