Michael Mearan

PORTSMOUTH Embattled and scandalized Portsmouth attorney Michael H. Mearan was sporting a new look Monday afternoon — orange, with shackles.

Two years ago, the Cincinnati Enquirer published an expose detailing the accounts of women who have accused Mearan, 74, of pimping them out to prominent men in the county of 75,000 — a follow-up investigative piece implicated the local probation department.

Underpinning the accusations was a federal search warrant affidavit which noted Mearan’s involvement in a separate drug case, according to the report.

After a raid on Mearan’s office — located across the street from the Scioto County Court House — little news about the human trafficking allegations bubbled for the rest of the year.

Until Friday, when a Scioto County grand jury issued a 15-count indictment stating Mearan had trafficked at least six women between 2003 and 2018.

Sitting in the court room Monday next to his defense attorney, Richard M. Nash, Mearan stared into a laptop as Special Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove heard his plea of not guilty via Zoom.

After putting the plea into the court record, the retired Summit County Court of Common Pleas judge then opened the hearing up to discuss bond. Special Prosecutor Jennifer Marie Gregg Rausch asked for “an appropriate bond” noting that just one conviction would result in 10 years in prison.

Nash countered with a personal recognizance bond — essentially letting Mearan walk free without putting any money up. The defense attorney argued that no weapon was involved in the allegations, Mearan is a member in good standing with the Ohio Bar and his family and employment keep him tied to the area.

He said Mearan was on a limited income; Nash said the elder attorney had been living on social security and a few thousand dollars a month from his practice. Nash also warned that keeping Mearan in jail might result in “his day in court never happening” due to diabetes and congestive heart failure Mearan has been living with for 20 years.

“Due to the sensationalism in the media around this case, Mr. Mearan has known about these allegations for years. During the BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigations) raid, he knew about it. He could’ve fled then, but he didn’t,” Nash said. “The only time he’s been outside the area in the past year was to go to Cleveland.”

Rausch countered the assertions, stating that Mearan might not be able to practice law much longer due to possible disciplinary board proceedings and that he had traveled more than 70 times to Florida, as revealed through the investigation.

Rausch then asserted if the case goes to trial, prosecutors would prove that Mearan used his position as an attorney to “recruit young and pretty girls” to set up “dates” with prominent members of the community. He’d either pay money to fund a victim’s drug habit or use his influence in the courts to make sure they’d comply with his demands, Rausch said.

“He’d set the prices and collect the money,” Rausch said. “Often, when he’d tell them they had to go on a date, he’d condition with their court date. The victims can testify they also have been threatened with phone calls to probation.”

Rausch also noted sexual assault allegations not only against the clients, but Mearan as well.

Nash wrote off the victims as “impeachable witnesses.”

“They have something to gain or they’re disgruntled about how court turned out for them. They have prior convictions,” Nash said.

Judge Cosgrove heard enough — she set bond at $300,000.

“I’m not saying these allegations are true, but human trafficking is intrinsically a crime of physical violence,” Cosgrove said. “That is a factor in setting this bond.”

Cosgrove then scheduled a telephonic pretrial for Nov. 2, in order to sort out whether or not Nash can stay in the case. Like anywhere along the Ohio River, everybody knows everybody — Rausch said there are concerns that Nash may have represented one of the witnesses in the cause before.

Following the hearing, Linda Mills — one of the outspoken victims in the case — said she was “angry and pissed” about Nash’s comments regarding “impeachable witnesses.”

“I’m respectable today,” Mills said. “Is our testimony not as believable as somebody else’s? People keep coming forward, but many are scared. You (Mearan) took 18 years of my life and I’m here to take the rest of yours. I do not want my children hurt today.”

Mills added, “I’m not stopping until we get justice. I’m here to speak up.”

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