A Missouri man has escaped jail time after pleading guilty to molesting an 11-year-old girl.
Judge Calvin Holden sentenced 22-year-old Joseph Meili to five years supervised probation after he pleaded guilty to third-degree child molestation.
According to police, Meili sexually assaulted the girl at a Springfield apartment after they met on a dating app.
According to reports, police were looking for the child after she had been reported missing, and was found when she returned home to pack a bag.
According to investigators, the girl stated that she had fallen asleep while she was with Meili, and upon waking up, felt like a sexual encounter had occurred.
She later told police that they’d had sex, and a test confirmed that she had chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease.
Meili was arrested on kidnapping, statutory rape and statutory sodomy charges, but the charges were dropped as part of the plea deal. He told authorities that the girl's dating profile said she was 18.
Scott Pierson, Meili's attorney, stated that the girl had "essentially catfished" Meili by lying about her age.
"He felt horrible about the entire incident," Pierson said of Meili, now a registered sex offender.
However, Elizabeth Fax, an attorney with the Greene County Prosecutor's Office, remains 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 said.