Former vice officer Andrew Mitchell pleads not guilty to new indictment

Andrew K. Mitchell - Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio

COLUMBUS — Former vice officer Andrew Mitchell wore a red jumpsuit during a brief appearance in federal court Thursday where he pleaded not guilty to a nine-count superseding indictment.

The two latest charges include an obstruction of justice charge and charge that alleges he destroyed or concealed potential evidence that impaired the FBI’s investigation.

Mitchell was originally arrested after he was indicted in mid-March. He retired from the police department the day after being charged.

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Federal prosecutors allege Mitchell — a 31-year veteran of Columbus Division of Police — coaxed women into sex acts under the threat of arrest. In this superseding indictment, federal prosecutors also allege that after learning that he was the target of a federal investigation in late September of 2018, Mitchell had people close to him clean out or destroy potential evidence against him that was left in apartment E of his rental property on Denune Ave.

Mitchell owns several rental properties throughout Columbus. A 10 Investigates review of police runs back in October found that police have made 630 police runs to Mitchell’s rental properties dating back to 2013.

A cross-reference of court records also shows that women who were arrested for solicitation also listed their addresses at Mitchell’s rental properties.

Federal prosecutors also allege that Mitchell rented to women — some of whom were prostitutes — and allowed them to forgo paying rent in exchange for sex.

Mitchell's attorney, Mark Collins, told reporters Thursday that Mitchell cleaned out apartment E after Oct. 2 because he was renting it to someone else. Collins said apartment E was Mitchell’s office. A source told 10 Investigates that it was his home away from home.

“When he would work different shifts at the Columbus Police Department he would change his clothes and things of that nature. But that was his office,” Collins said.

When asked by 10 Investigates about the allegation that Mitchell had sex with tenants at that location, Collins said: “I understand that. We deny that and that's why we are entering a not guilty plea.”

10 Investigates watched as federal agents with the FBI’s public corruption task force raided Mitchell’s rental properties on Denune Avenue and another house on 20th Avenue last week.

10 Investigates watched as agents focused in on apartment E — removing both boxes and containers filled with documents. A witness said they also removed furniture samples.

A trial date for Mitchell’s federal case was set for Sept. 15.

Mitchell also faces state charges of murder and manslaughter for the August fatal shooting of Donna Castleberry during an alleged prostitution sting. Collins said that Mitchell was stabbed in the hand and responded with the use of force. Collins told reporters that two detectives testified before the grand jury that the shooting was justified.

“You have to look at it through the eyes of a reasonable police officer. Two detectives testified at grand jury that they felt it was a good shoot. The CIRT team certified that it was a proper shooting. And so we believe we will be able to put forward that defense to a grand jury on that case.”

When asked for a response to that, a Columbus Division of Police spokeswoman sent the following statement: “The CIRT team never makes a determination of whether or not a shooting is legal or within policy. The job of the investigator is to gather the evidence and then present it to the Prosecutor. The Grand Jury decides if the shooting is lawful or not.”

The spokeswoman referred other questions to the prosecutor’s office.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said the CIRT team did not make a finding that the shooting was lawful or unlawful. He added that after the grand jury review the investigation is sent up the chain of command in the police department to the Firearms Review Board to make a determination for justification as well as compliance with police guidelines on the use of deadly force.

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