Meroney cuts deal to avoid jail

Memphis news anchor Ron Meroney has cut a deal.  It's not official yet, but it will be in a matter of months and was revealed in court today after weeks of negotiations with prosecutors in Maryland.  Even though he still says he's innocent, Meroney will enter a guilty plea and in doing so, he'll avoid having to spend any time in jail.

Ron Meroney's Memphis lawyer - Mark Mesler - has been coaching him every step of the way and he says the deal the news anchor has cut is the best one on the table.

"Essentially, he's charged with a type of crime up in Maryland that would come with 20 years to life.  So they've agreed to offer him a much reduced sentence - I don't know exactly what the statute would be up there - but it would carry in his particular case, it would come with no jail time and potential for probation and registry on the sex offender list, things of that nature," he says.

Meroney was charged earlier this year with a Maryland equivalent of statutory rape, involving a family member more than thirty years ago.  He has reportedly been considering plea offers from prosecutors for weeks, but all - until now - have included some jail time.

Neither Meroney, nor his employer WHBQ, have commented about the charges.  But - through his lawyer - Meroney has long maintained his innocence.  Mesler says nothing has changed.

"Essentially what that is a best interest plea.  I'm not guilty but I think that the offer that has been made by the state is in my best interests to take to settle this case and put this behind me.  As a practical matter, it has no impact because it is still a guilty plea.  But you are able to stand up in court and say Judge I didn't do this, but the offer on the table is so good, I have to accept it," says Mesler.

He says Meroney has either retired from WHBQ or is in the process of retiring.

We were unable to reach Wicomico prosecutors to ask them about their case or this deal.  But Mesler tells us it may also include some period of house arrest, that would likely occur in Maryland where - prosecutors say - the crime was committed.