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A veteran detective in Ohio forced women to have sex with him in exchange for their freedom and coerced witnesses to lie as part of a “nightmarish breach of trust,” according to federal prosecutors.
Andrew K. Mitchell, a 55-year-old vice squad officer in Columbus, was arrested Monday by federal agents on charges of depriving individuals of their civil rights while acting under the color of law and other crimes involving two women, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.
Prosecutors allege Mitchell kidnapped one of the women under the guise of an arrest in July 2017 and took her to an undisclosed location, where he forced her to perform oral sex in exchange for her freedom.
Mitchell is accused of kidnapping a second woman in September 2017, again taking her without her consent to a location where he forced the victim to have sex in order to be released, prosecutors said.
The 31-year department veteran targeted the second victim again — kidnapping her for a second time last summer and taking her to an undisclosed location, where he forced her to have anal sex before allowing her to leave, prosecutors said.
Several public officials, including US Attorney Benjamin Glassman, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, blasted Mitchell’s alleged actions as a serious violation of public trust that erode faith in law enforcement officers.
“Police officers are heroes, not predators,” Yost told the Columbus Dispatch. “When one goes bad … it pulls respect down for all law enforcement.”
Glassman, meanwhile, characterized Mitchell’s alleged actions as a “nightmarish breach of trust,” while Columbus’ interim police chief, Thomas Quinlan, said residents had “every right to be disgusted” by Mitchell’s arrest.
“Our officers are given tremendous power to keep our residents safe — and the overwhelming majority are dedicated to serving our residents honorably every day,” Quinlan said in a statement to the Dispatch. “But when an officer abuses that power, the City of Columbus is committed to holding him or her accountable.”
Mitchell, who was relieved of duty in September, is separately accused of trying to corruptly tamper with two additional witnesses in the case and to influence the testimony of a fifth victim in a proceeding before a federal grand jury.
He’s also accused of lying to FBI agents during an interview in September 2018 at John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, where he said he never had sex with a prostitute. Federal prosecutors allege that he has, in fact, paid for sex with several prostitutes, according to a seven-count indictment.
Mitchell’s attorney, Mark Collins, dismissed the charges, telling the Columbus Dispatch that his client “absolutely, 100 percent” denied the allegations.
A judge ordered Mitchell, who faces up to life in prison if convicted, to remain in custody of the US Marshals Service until a detention hearing on Wednesday, the Dispatch reports.
The federal indictment is unrelated to an ongoing investigation into the death of a woman whom Mitchell shot while working undercover in August 2018. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said the probe into the fatal shooting of Donna Castleberry, 23, is expected to be presented to a grand jury within the next month. Police have said Castleberry stabbed Mitchell in the hand before he shot her several times from an unmarked police vehicle.
Collins, meanwhile, questioned the timing of Mitchell’s arrest and that proceeding.
“Is he going to get a fair shake in the grand jury, with all this publicity?” Collins said, according to the Dispatch. “Is he going to be testifying in jail clothes?”