USA Today - 27.03.2020

(Darren Dugan) #1


PORTSMOUTH, Ohio – A former city
councilman and practicing defense at-
torney rumored to be a player in a sex
trafficking ring was detained by police
while officials searched his home
Wednesday morning
The streets surrounding Michael
Mearan's home near the Scioto County
Courthouse were blocked by police ve-
hicles and flooded with police person-
Mearan sat on his front porch while
police searched his home, then drove
from the scene. Ohio Attorney General
Dave Yost accompanied police.
Attempts to reach Mearan for com-
ment were unsuccessful.
Portsmouth police detectives began
looking into Mearan in late 2018, about
the same time the Enquirer began re-
porting on rumors of sex trafficking in
this southern Ohio city.
After the Enquirer published the re-
sults of its investigation in March,
agents with the state Bureau of Criminal
Investigation became involved.
The prosecution is handled by Ange-
la Canepa at the state attorney general’s
office of special prosecutions.
Ten women said they worked as
prostitutes for Mearan, and several of
them said they traveled to numerous
states to have money for sex at his be-
The women told the Enquirer that
Mearan’s operation included some of
the most powerful men in Scioto County
as customers and participants. One said
she slept with a former police chief for
Three others said they were ap-
proached by Mearan or others to per-

form sexual favors for now-retired Scio-
to County Common Pleas Court Judge
William Marshall in exchange for lighter
sentences in their criminal cases.
Marshall was suspended from prac-
ticing law after interfering in his daugh-
ter’s speeding ticket case. His family
tried to take control of his personal af-
fairs in court, saying he was a severe al-
coholic and had gone to work as a judge
while drunk.
That opened an investigation by the
Ohio Public Defender’s office into Mar-
shall’s conduct and whether the results
in as many as 3,000 criminal cases he
oversaw should be reexamined.
The state's investigation reflects
what was initially outlined in a sealed

federal wiretap affidavit issued as part
of a separate Drug Enforcement Ad-
ministration investigation several
years ago.
That document, obtained by the
Enquirer in early 2018, includes ac-
counts of Mearan sending women to
Florida and other states to have sex for
That investigation resulted in eight
drug convictions, but Mearan was not
The DEA said it handed any notes
on Mearan over to the FBI, and it is not
clear what happened after that.
The family of Megan Lancaster, a
Portsmouth prostitute who went
missing in 2013, has worked for years
to get answers about her disappear-
ance, including whether Mearan is
“We hope that it brings answers and
justice to all the girls, whether he’s
trafficked them or had a past with
them at all,” Kadie Lancaster, Megan's
sister-in-law, said. "Of course, we pray
to God this brings Megan home.”

Home of former Ohio

councilman is raided

Portsmouth attorney

accused of sex trafficking

Liz Dufour, Bob Strickley
and Kate Murphy

Cincinnati Enquirer

Michael Mearan walks down the steps of his home/office Wednesday as it was
raided by Portsmouth, Ohio, and state police. LIZ DUFOUR/USA TODAY NETWORK

If you or someone you
know needs help

❚ National Human Trafficking Hotline:
❚ Drug Helpline: 1-888-633-

ezuelan people and corrupted the legiti-
mate institutions of Venezuela,” from
the judiciary and intelligence agencies
to the legislature and military.
As the cartel’s leader, Maduro ar-
ranged for “multi-ton” shipments of
FARC-produced cocaine, directed the
cartel to provide military weapons to the
Colombian revolutionary group and
used them to train a separate militia
that functioned as “an armed force” for
the cartel.
The legal action against Maduro
ratchets up tensions with Venezuela
where the United States and more than
50 other countries have long called for
Maduro’s ouster and thrown their sup-
port to Juan Guaido as the country’s
Guaido has staunch support from the
Trump administration and other top
U.S. officials.
Barr said the timing of the announce-
ment had been somewhat complicated
by the virus.
The attorney general, however, said
the onset of the global health crisis was
probably “a good time to rid the country
of this corrupt cabal.”
“Hopefully, the Venezuelan people
will see what’s going on and gain control
of their country,” Barr said.
Asked about the likelihood of obtain-
ing Maduro’s arrest, Barr said, “We do
expect to gain control of these defen-

Venezuelan President Nicolas Madu-
ro was charged with federal drug traf-
ficking crimes as part of a far-reaching
U.S. investigation involving prosecutors
in New York, Washington and Miami.
Attorney General William Barr an-
nounced the extraordinary action
Thursday, saying charges were filed
against more than a dozen other current
and former Venezuelan officials, includ-
ing the country’s Supreme Court chief
justice and the minister of defense.
The years-long investigation, federal
authorities said, revealed a government
immersed in “corruption at the highest
Maduro’s government, Manhattan
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said,
“betrayed the Venezuelan people ... to
line their pockets with drug money.”
The four-count indictment against
Maduro was unsealed in New York and
named Diosdado Cabello Rondón, head
of Venezuela’s National Constituent As-
sembly; Hugo Armando Carvajal Barri-
os, former director of military intelli-
gence; and Clíver Antonio Alcalá Cor-
dones, a former general in the Venezue-
lan armed forces.

“The scope and magnitude of the
drug trafficking alleged was made pos-
sible only because Maduro and others
corrupted the institutions of Venezuela
and provided political and military pro-
tection for the rampant narco-terrorism
crimes described in our charges,” Ber-
man said. Maduro and other officials
“expressly intended to flood the United
States with cocaine in order to under-
mine the health and well being of our
Assistant Attorney General Brian
Benczkowski, chief of the Justice De-
partment’s Criminal Division, said the
charges show that the Maduro regime
was “propped up by a sham judiciary
and a corrupt military,” adding that the
country’s defense minister authorized

regular and enormous shipments of co-
caine destined for the U.S.
In conjunction with the Justice De-
partment action, the State Department
announced a reward of up to $15 million
for information leading to the arrest or
conviction of Maduro and up to $10 mil-
lion for other Venezuelan officials
named in the indictment.
“These individuals violated the pub-
lic trust by facilitating shipments of nar-
cotics from Venezuela, including con-
trol over planes that leave from a Vene-
zuelan air base, as well as control of
drug routes through the ports in Vene-
zuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
said in a statement.
The payments are offered through
the State Department’s Narcotics Re-
wards Program.
For more than two decades, accord-
ing to federal prosecutors, Maduro and
other top leaders managed a criminal
enterprise known as the Cartel de Los
Soles (Cartel of the Suns) that conspired
with Colombia’s leftist guerrilla group
known as the FARC to ship tons of co-
caine to Central America and the USA.
According to court documents, the
cartel not only sought to enrich its
members and bolster its political clout
but also to exact maximum harm on the
USA by expediting cocaine shipments
to American users.
Maduro and his alleged conspirators,
prosecutors asserted, “abused the Ven-

US charges Venezuelan president

Maduro, others accused

of federal drug crimes

Kevin Johnson

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
speaks in Caracas on March 12.

BOISE, Idaho – Gov. Brad Little has
signed into law legislation setting 16 as
the minimum age for a person to get
The Republican governor signed the
bill Tuesday. It limits the marriages of
16- and 17-year-olds to someone not
more than three years older.
Backers said the legislation was
needed to prevent forced or coerced
marriages of young girls to much older

A similar bill failed in the House
last year. It would have required a
judge to sign off on someone marry-
ing at 16 or 17. The new legislation re-
quires only parental consent, as does
current law.
Before the new law, which goes
into effect July 1, minors even younger
than 16 could get married with con-
sent of a parent and a judge.
In most states, the minimum age to
marry without parental consent is 18.

Idaho sets minimum

age to get married at 16

year after killing 51 worshipers at two
Christchurch mosques, an Australian
white supremacist accused of the
slaughter changed his plea to guilty on
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29,
pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder,
40 counts of attempted murder and
one count of terrorism. The killing
spree was the deadliest in New Zea-
land’s modern history and prompted
the government to rush through new

laws banning most semi-automatic
Tarrant was scheduled to go to trial
on the charges in June.
A date has yet to be set.
Tarrant faces life imprisonment on
the charges.
The plea came at a hastily arranged
court hearing as New Zealand begins a
four-week lockdown to try and combat
the coronavirus pandemic. The lock-
down meant that Tarrant appeared in
the court from his jail cell via video link
and that only a few people were allowed
inside the courtroom.

New Zealand mosque shooter

changes his plea to guilty


A 5.0 magnitude earthquake rattled
West Texas on Thursday morning, the
U.S. Geological Survey said.
The quake epicenter was about 27
miles west of Mentone, Texas, and was
located 3 miles below the surface. It hit
at 10:16 a.m CDT.
Residents of El Paso, about 175
miles west of the reported epicenter,
felt the quake, which was originally
rated at 4.7 magnitude.
The El Paso region isn’t accustomed
to being rattled by earthquakes, and
incredulous residents wondered aloud
on social media about what they had
just felt.
“Did we just have a small scale
#earthquake in #ElPaso? Who else felt
it?” said El Pasoan Gera Alvarez, a for-
mer University of Texas at El Paso
goalkeeper soccer coach.
Clint, Texas, resident Guillermina
Estrada said she felt her bed sway. “It
felt like the vibration of a train when it
passes, but bigger,” she said.
An emergency alert sent by USGS
said there were no reports of damage
or injuries in the El Paso region.
At least five smaller earthquakes
had been registered near Mentone,
Texas, over the past four days.
The U.S. Geological Survey said
“earthquakes east of the Rocky Moun-
tains, although less frequent than in
the West, are typically felt over a much
broader region than earthquakes of
similar magnitude in the West.”
Contributing: Lauren Villagran, El
Paso Times





USGS: No injury reports

in 5.0 magnitude shock

Doyle Rice
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