SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A man was sentenced to five years probation last Friday after admitting to a sex crime with an 11-year-old girl.
Joseph Meili, 22, pleaded guilty to third-degree child molestation, but the conviction could go off his record if he successfully completes probation.
Meili will be required to register as a sex offender as part of his plea.
Court documents say Meili connected with the girl on an online dating website and they arranged to meet in person in July 2017. A sexual encounter ensued.
Meili's attorney Scott Pierson said the girl told Meili she was 18.
While Meili and the girl were together, she was reported missing.
Girl tested positive for chlamydia: Police: Girl, 11, gets STD after she was kidnapped
Police officers, firefighters and sheriff's deputies were scouring the area near the girl's home in Republic, Missouri, until she was eventually found back at her home late that night, packing a bag to leave again, according to court documents.
Court documents say the girl told authorities about meeting up with Meili, and she later tested positive for chlamydia.
Meili was originally charged with several serious felonies, including kidnapping, statutory sodomy and statutory rape.
Pierson said Meili was "essentially catfished," or lured into believing the girl was 18, and he felt horrible when he found out she was 11.
At a hearing Friday, Judge Calvin Holden sentenced Meili to probation despite the state asking that he be sent to prison for a 120-day program, according to Pierson.
"I think this is a just outcome," Pierson said.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: No jail time for man who admitted to molesting an 11-year-old girl