Columbus Vice Detective Arrested, Indicted on Federal Charges
After a federal investigation, a Columbus Vice Detective has been arrested and charged with crimes related to kidnapping victims under the guise of an arrest and trading their freedom for sex.
Vice Detective Andrew K. Mitchell faces seven counts, with three counts of depriving individuals of their civil rights while acting as a law enforcement officer, two counts of witness tampering, one count of obstructing justice, and one count of making false statements to federal agents. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
“We rely on the police to serve and protect us, and when you have a police officer who commits a crime, that is a very serious breach of trust,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said at a press briefing on Monday. “And when you have a police officer who not only commits a crime, but does so under color of law, the authority of a police officer, that’s an extraordinarily serious offense. That is a nightmarish breach of trust, and that is a federal crime.”
Mitchell has been an officer with the Columbus Division of Police for 30 years, and in March of 2017 was assigned as detective of the Vice Unit.
According to the FBI, the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), the Ohio Auditor’s Office and the Columbus Division of Police, the timeline of Mitchell’s alleged offenses begins in July of 2017. At that time, under the guise of an arrest, Mitchell allegedly kidnapped a victim and transported her to another location, where she performed oral sex in exchange for her freedom. In September of that year, Mitchell allegedly kidnapped a second victim, transported her to another location and forced the victim to engage in vaginal sex for her freedom. In late spring of 2018, Mitchell picked up the second victim again, transported her to a different location and, in exchange for her freedom, traded anal sex.
Mitchell allegedly attempted to corruptly tamper two additional victims who are witnesses in this case. He also allegedly attempted to influence, delay and prevent the testimony of a fifth victim in an official proceeding before a federal grand jury.
The final count comes from an interaction between Mitchell and FBI agents in September of 2018 in which Mitchell allegedly provided false information, stating he had never had sex with a prostitute when, in fact, it is alleged that Mitchell has had sex with numerous prostitutes and has paid women money for sex.
“The community has every right to be disgusted by the news as well as anyone who wears a badge,” said interim Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan. “We take an oath to obey the constitution and the laws of the federal, state and local government. This officer will be held accountable, but I ask for the community’s continued support for the 1,900 officers who work hard every day to honor our profession.”
Glassman and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien declined to comment as to whether the indictment of Mitchell was related to the ongoing investigation into the death of 23-year-old Donna Castleberry. Last August, Castleberry was arrested by Mitchell on prostitution charges and, according to Columbus Police, was fatally shot after “an altercation occurred” in which Castleberry stabbed Mitchell in the hand. The grand jury is expected to make a decision in that investigation within the next month, according to O’Brien.
“Our officers are given tremendous power to keep our residents safe – and the overwhelming majority are dedicated to serving our residents honorably every day. But when an officer abuses that power, the City of Columbus is committed to holding him or her accountable,” Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a statement. “The FBI’s investigation into CPD’s Vice unit continues, while local authorities are investigating the shooting death of Donna Castleberry by Officer Mitchell.”
Mitchell was relieved of duty in fall of 2018 and is now in federal custody. Glassman emphasized that the indictment sets forth allegations, and therefore Mitchell is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.