A Howland attorney who lost his job as an assistant county prosecutor after being arrested for soliciting sex online from an undercover officer posing as a 15-year-old girl has now been indefinitely suspended from practicing law.

The Supreme Court of Ohio on Wednesday suspended Joseph M. Bell who, while at work in the child support unit of the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office in July 2021, went online with his phone to visit profiles of sex workers.

Investigators say Bell contacted a person who identified herself as a teen but was a police officer with the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force. 

Although Bell did not go through with plans to meet the “girl”, the Supreme Court found that Bell’s position as a prosecutor and his misconduct warranted an indefinite suspension.

 Writing for the Court majority, Chief Justice Sharon L. Kennedy stated that an assistant prosecutor is “invested with the public trust” and should be held to a higher standard than other attorneys.

“His job was to protect children; instead, while on the job, he negotiated a price to victimize one,” the chief justice wrote.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which brought the complaint against Bell to the Board of Professional Conduct, recommended the indefinite suspension. The board proposed a two-year suspension with six months credit for time served during an interim suspension.

Bell, who was indicted by the Mahoning County Grand Jury on one count of importuning in November 2021, was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to unlawful use of a telecommunication device in 2022.