Andrew Mitchell, a former police officer from Columbus, OH who was on the police force for 30 years, has been arrested and charged with arresting women and forcing them to have sex with him in exchange for their freedom. Last week, he was federally indicted and charged with three counts of holding the women against their will and two counts of witness tampering, along with one count of obstructing justice and making a false statement to a federal agent, according to recently unsealed documents from the Department of Justice. He is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison.
According to the indictment, on at least three separate occasions between the summer of 2017 and the summer of 2018, Mitchell arrested women and took them to another location, where he told them he would not release them unless they had sex with him. On at least one occasion, a woman says she was told that Mitchell would charge her with a crime if she refused his advances. He is also accused of threatening his alleged victims and trying to persuade them not to testify in front of a grand jury, as well as lying to federal agents when asked if he had had sex with a sex worker. In a statement to the Columbus Dispatch, Mitchell’s lawyer, Mark Collins, said Mitchell “absolutely, 100 percent” denies the charges. He told the Associate Press that his client plans to plead not guilty
Mitchell is also under investigation for an unrelated crime: fatally shooting a 23-year-old woman, Donna Castleberry, during a prostitution bust last August after the two had an “altercation” in his car. Columbus police officials have previously claimed that Castleberry was wielding a knife at the time, and Mitchell was acting in self-defense.
Mitchell has worked for the Columbus police force since 1988 and was assigned to the vice department in 2017. He was “relieved of his duties” in September, which, according to the local public radio affiliate WOSU, means that his gun and badge were taken away and he was reassigned to desk duty.
Many have compared the Mitchell case to that of Daniel Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer who received a 263-year prison sentence in 2016 for sexually assaulting more than a dozen women of color while on the job. Like Mitchell, Holtzclaw was accused of using his badge as a way to wield power over the women, telling one alleged victim he wouldn’t take her to jail if she “just play[ed] by my rules.”
Unfortunately, it is far from uncommon for police officers (particularly vice officers) to threaten women with arrest unless they have sex with them. One small San Francisco study found that more than 14 percent of sex workers had been threatened with arrest by a cop unless they agreed to have sex with them.
In a press conference, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost expressed dismay at the allegations against Mitchell, saying that they were a disgrace to his office.
“Police officers are heroes, not predators,” Yost said. “When one goes bad … it pulls respect down for all law enforcement.”