GREENE Co., Miss. – A Missouri man who admitted to sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl was given a sentence Friday of five years probation, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
Joseph Meili, 22, agreed to plead guilty to third-degree molestation as part of a plea deal reached in March. If he doesn’t violate the terms of the sentence, the conviction could be taken off his record, the paper reports.
Meili met the victim through the dating app MeetMe, according to court documents obtained by the Jefferson City News Tribune.
Police say the girl used her mother’s phone to give Meili her address in July of 2017, and Meili picked her up and drove her to his apartment in Springfield.
Investigators believe deputies and firefighters were searching for the girl near her home while Meili was sexually assaulting her. Meili dropped her off at her house where she was found that night, packing a bag to leave again, according to prosecutors.
Related: Virginia Beach man sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing child
The girl eventually told investigators she had fallen asleep at his apartment and, when she woke up, she thought something sexual had been done to her. The Springfield News-Leader reports that semen was found in her underwear and she later tested positive for chlamydia.
Meili’s attorney, Scott Pierson, argued in court that his client and been “essentially catfished” and felt terrible when he learned her true age.
Greene County Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Elizabeth Fax told Huffpost she doesn’t believe it’s possible he actually thought the girl was 18, saying, “To actually see her in person … he knew and just decided to go along with it.”