PORTSMOUTH, OHIO (WOWK) — We are continuing to track the case of one former Portsmouth attorney and city councilman who passed away while awaiting trial for charges including promoting and compelling prostitution, human trafficking, and corruption.
According to Michael Mearan’s lawyer, Michael Siewert of Siewert & Gjostein Co. LPA, Mearan passed away on Friday in the hospital.
Although no official cause of death is released yet, Siewert says Mearan had a history of long-term health issues, including heart problems.
The problem of prostitution and human trafficking is nothing new for the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re heading down to the east end of Portsmouth, that is well-known for prostitution and for Johns picking up the women – it is a constant problem. The law enforcement has dealt with it for as long as I’ve been in law enforcement, and way prior to that,” says Sheriff David Thoroughman of Scioto County.
The sheriff shows 13 News to high traffic areas for prostitution in Portsmouth, and says how rare it is to catch the people responsible.
“In this area, holding somebody accountable or arresting somebody for the human trafficking has not occurred that often. Mike Mearan would be—to my knowledge—the first…” Thoroughman says.
Michael Mearan was a former lawyer and former city councilman who died Friday while awaiting trial on 18 charges involving human trafficking and prostitution.
He’s accused of trolling for victims in the court system, working with a former city judge to find his victims.
Prosecutors say he then delivered the victims to other men—sometimes in other states.
Officials claim the sex ring started as early as 2003.
Now that Mearan is dead, one current city councilwoman wonders what’s next for this case:
“I hope that whoever is investigating it continues to investigate it, because I don’t feel that he was in this alone, and I also feel very strongly that there were a lot of women who were very brave and took a lot of risks to come forward,” says Charlotte Gordon, 2nd Ward Council Representative for the Portsmouth City Council.
“I feel that to honor them and to respect the risks that they took and respect the horrendous things that they went through, that this investigation can’t die, that it has to go forward.”
The charges list six female victims, but many in the community speculate there are many more.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is in charge of the case now. 13 News reached out for comment on what is next for this investigation and are waiting to hear back.
However, the sheriff says in his experience, if the defendant passes away:
“There’s no finding of guilt or anything, the case is just closed.”
Additionally, Mearan’s lawyer says he anticipates the case will be dismissed once a death certificate is issued.