New details emerge as former vice officer pleads not guilty to federal charges

Andrew K. Mitchell - Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio

COLUMBUS (WBNS) — Shackled at the wrists and ankles and wearing a white beard and gray sweatshirt, former vice officer Andrew Mitchell glanced at those in attendance inside a federal courtroom Thursday.

Mitchell, accused of abusing his power as a police officer, pleaded not guilty to seven federal charges that allege he coaxed women into sex acts in exchange for their freedom and then lied to federal investigators and tampered with witnesses about his alleged behavior.

His defense attorney Mark Collins had filed a motion earlier this week asking that Mitchell be released from federal custody. But a hearing on that matter was delayed Thursday at the request of the defense. Collins said he wants to review the evidence against his client before asking for another hearing to address his freedom while awaiting trial.

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Mitchell is also accused separately of fatally shooting Donna Castleberry in August of 2018 during an alleged prostitution sting. Police had argued that Castleberry pulled a knife on Mitchell during their encounter. Mitchell faces a separate criminal probe in that matter in state court and was already the focus of police scrutiny at the time over his alleged behavior at the time of Castleberry’s death.

Her relatives were in court Thursday and described their feelings to reporters.

"Numb. Sick. Not a lot of feelings,” said Mary Laile, Castleberry’s cousin.

"It was nauseating. It made my stomach turn to see his face… Because he's the man who killed my sister,” said Bobbi McCalla, Castleberry’s sister.

Collins argues the former vice officer should be released from federal custody before his trial. Collins says that he's not a flight risk or a danger to the public.

“The indictment was filed March the 7th. Was he a danger the evening of the 8th the evening of the 9th? 10th? No. Apparently, though he was a danger March 11. He's known about this investigation since September 26th,” Collins said.

But prosecutors argue that even after learning he was under a federal investigation — Mitchell "continued to engage in criminal conduct" — alleging that he lied to the FBI about having sex with a prostitute, tampered with witnesses and obstructed justice.

They also pointed to Mitchell's "troubling" behavior as a landlord — alleging that "the federal investigation has identified multiple women — some of whom work as prostitutes, most of whom are drug addicts, all of whom are vulnerable members of the community — who were tenants of Mitchell's rental properties and traded sex for free or reduced rent."

A 10 Investigates review found 630 police runs to Mitchell's rental properties dating back to 2013. In some of the cases, women cited for solicitation also listed Mitchell's properties as their addresses.

“He's not charged with any of that. And quite frankly, that's what is called 404B material — other bad acts — we don't believe that that would ever come in proceeding or court hearing that concerned us greatly,” Collins said.

Collins added that it is unlikely that Mitchell will be released from federal custody before April 4 when he is set to appear before a Franklin County grand jury, which is investigating the shooting death of Castleberry.

A trial date of May 20, 2019, was set for Mitchell’s federal case.

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