A Missouri man who blamed his molestation of an 11-year-old girl on catfishing recently learned that he won’t spend a day behind bars.
According to court documents, Greene County judge Calvin Holden sentenced Joseph Meili, 22, to five years of supervised probation after pleading guilty Friday to third-degree child molestation. The Springfield News-Leader reported that the conviction could be removed from Meili’s record if he completes probation.
Meili and the victim reportedly connected through a dating app before meeting in person in July 2017. It was during that encounter when the pair had sexual contact and the girl was reported missing, according to the news outlet.
Law enforcement was searching for the girl when she returned to her Republic home to pack a bag to leave again. She reportedly revealed that she met up with Meili and that she later tested positive for chlamydia.
According to the News-Leader, the girl claimed she fell asleep while at Meili’s apartment and woke up feeling as like she had been sexually assaulted. Authorities reportedly discovered semen in her underwear.
At the time of his arrest, Meili claimed he believed the girl was 18 because that was the age listed on her dating profile. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed charges of child kidnapping, statutory sodomy, and statutory rape. Meili will be required to register as a sex offender.
Though prosecutors pushed for a seven-year prison sentence, Holden opted to give Meili probation.
HuffPost noted that the Greene County judge has previously faced controversy for giving lenient sentences to offenders convicted of violating children.
In 2016, Holden sentenced a man who sexually abused an 8-year-old to 30 days in jail and five years’ probation. In February, he sentenced a twice-convicted rapist to five years of supervised probation for raping a woman a mere month into his probation. The 33-year-old man had received the initial sentence for the statutory rape of a 16-year-old he managed at a restaurant he worked at, according to the Springfield News-Sun.
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[Featured image: Joseph Meili/Greene County Sheriff’s Office]