TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court suspended the law license of a veteran attorney from southern Ohio, three months after he was charged with human trafficking involving six women — most, former clients.
The state attorney disciplinary board sought the move, saying attorney Michael Mearan, of Portsmouth, was a danger and that “immediate action is necessary to stop this predatory threat.”
The court said Friday it would suspend Mearan “from the practice of law for an interim period.”
Mearan, 75, has denied the accusations against him, saying in a court filing that the allegations were based on testimony from “numerous felons” who received favorable treatment for cooperating with investigators.
He was charged in October with promoting prostitution, compelling prostitution, human trafficking and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. If convicted on all counts, Mearan faces more than 70 years in prison.
Mearan pleaded not guilty to all charges in October and was freed after posting bail.
The alleged sex trafficking was based in Portsmouth, a city about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Cincinnati, along the Ohio River, where Mearan operated a law firm and served on city council.
Authorities said in court documents that he targeted women who were poor, addicted to drugs and facing criminal charges to take part in a prostitution ring during a 15-year-period beginning in 2003.
Mearan “used his position as an attorney to cultivate and exploit relationships with highly vulnerable females,” prosecutors said.
The victims said he arranged the meetings with men in southern Ohio and out of state, collected the money and kept a share of it, according to the court documents.
One woman said he paid her to recruit others while she was in prison, investigators said.
In response to the attempt to suspend his license, Mearan said there was not substantial credible evidence that showed he violated any rules of professional conduct or that he is a threat to the public.