A Missouri man who pleaded guilty to molesting an 11-year-old girl will not be going to prison, a judge decided last week.
According to the Jefferson City News Tribune, Judge Calvin Holden on Friday sentenced Joseph Meili, 22, of Russellville, to five years of supervised probation after Meili pleaded guilty to a third-degree child molestation charge.
Authorities said Meili sexually assaulted the girl at a Springfield apartment in July 2017 after the pair met on a dating app, the News Tribune reported.
During the incident, police were looking for the child, who had been reported missing, authorities said. She was found after she returned to her Republic home to pack a bag, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
The girl told investigators that she had fallen asleep while she was with Meili, the News Tribune reported. When she woke up, she felt like a sexual encounter had occurred, she told authorities.
The girl later told police that she and Meili had had sex, HuffPost reported. A test also confirmed that the child had chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease, authorities said.
Meili, who initially was arrested on kidnapping, statutory rape and statutory sodomy charges, said the girl's dating profile said she was 18, the News-Leader reported. Those charges were dropped as part of Meili's plea deal.
Meili's attorney, Scott Pierson, said the girl had "essentially catfished" his client by lying about her age, according to the News-Leader.
"He felt horrible about the entire incident," Pierson told HuffPost of Meili, who is now a registered sex offender.
But Elizabeth Fax, an attorney with the Greene County Prosecutor's Office, was skeptical.
"I think dating apps make it easier to get into these types of situations, to be sure, but to actually see her in person. ... He knew and just decided to go along with it anyway," Fax told HuffPost.