Veteran Ohio cop indicted for duping two women into performing sex acts to avoid arrest; also under investigation for murder: Prosecutors

PHOTO: This undated photo provided by the Department of Justice shows Columbus vice squad Officer Andrew Mitchell. PlayDepartment of Justice via AP
WATCH News headlines today: Mar. 13, 2019

A veteran Ohio police officer was indicted on Monday for falsely arresting women and forcing them to perform sex acts in exchange for them to avoid charges, federal prosecutors said.

On three separate dates between July 2017 and late spring 2018, Andrew Mitchell allegedly picked up two women in Columbus, Ohio, "under the guise of arrest" and coerced them into having sex in order for him to release them without charges, said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman for the Southern District of Ohio at a press conference.

One of the women was allegedly victimized twice by Mitchell, officials said.

Glassman said Mitchell was charged in a seven count indictment for three counts of depriving individuals of their civil rights while acting under the color of law as well as two counts of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and making a false statement to a federal agent.

"When you have a police officer, who not only commits a crime, but does so under color of law with his authority as a police officer, that's an extraordinarily serious offense. That is a nightmarish breach of trust," said Glassman during the press conference.

Mitchell was with the Columbus Division of Police Force for 30 years and assigned to the Vice unit since March 2017, officials said. Mitchell was "relieved of duty" since last fall, officials said.

FBI Special Agent Todd Wickerham said at the press conference that Mitchell's conduct was both "shocking and revolting."

If convicted, Mitchell faces life in prison.

In a statement to The Columbus Dispatch, Mitchell's attorney Mark Collins, said his client "absolutely, 100 percent" denies the allegations against him.

Mitchell is also under investigation for the August 2018 death of 23-year-old Donna Castleberry.

Castleberry was inside of Mitchell's car allegedly as a part of an investigation for complaints related to prostitution when she was shot and killed. Officials did not say if Castleberry was subjected to the same abuse as the other victims, but noted that the investigation is still "open and ongoing."

Castleberry's family spoke out after learning of the charges against Mitchell, expressing happiness "that there has been a step forward towards getting justice for Donna," but acknowledges "there is still a long way to go."

Law enforcement officials encouraged anyone with information related Mitchell and his alleged misconduct to come forward to assist with the investigation.