Columbus city attorney Zach Klein announced Tuesday that in the wake of the federal indictment against police officer Andrew Mitchell, the city will dismiss any open cases where Mitchell is the sole complainant and review any prior convictions secured under similar circumstances. Klein said they will also be reviewing past similar cases on a case-by-case basis, if the defendant asks.
Mitchell was taken into federal custody Monday morning at Columbus Police headquarters. He was charged with three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, accused of kidnapping women under the false pretense of an arrest and then forcing them to engage in sex acts in exchange for their freedom. The 30-year veteran was also charged with multiple counts of witness tampering, and making false statements for lying to the FBI during the investigation.
"We want to make sure that justice is served, and that it's fair," Klein explained Tuesday. "And certainly these actions called to light by the Department of Justice are beyond troubling and concerning."
Mitchell was assigned to the vice squad in March 2017 and since then, Franklin County Municipal Court records show at least 180 solicitation and loitering cases where he is the sole complainant. Dozens upon dozens of young women were charged by Mitchell and were later convicted or pleaded guilty to the charge. Klein said that anyone who suspects their conviction may have been improper due to Mitchell's police work may have their attorney contact the city prosecutor's office by emailing Prosecutor Bill Hedrick at firstname.lastname@example.org. The office will review each case, on a case-by-case basis, if new and compelling information is brought to light since Mitchell's arrest.
Former Franklin County prosecutor S. Michael Miller, who served 17 years in that office before retiring in 1996, said he expects all of Officer Mitchell's cases would come under scrutiny at some point.
"There are bad apples in any field, there's just no doubt about it," Miller said. "I think the key thing is his cases (is) how they will bear up, under scrutiny."
Miller said in his career, he encountered hundreds of criminal defendants who said an officer had threatened them, or demanded something in exchange for their freedom. Miller says over time, prosecutors become jaded to such claims.
"Everybody has an excuse," Miller said. "But now (in the Mitchell case) you go back and think, 'wait a minute.' It becomes a whole new thing, because now there may be a great deal of credibility to what the person had said."
The FBI says their investigation of Officer Mitchell is ongoing, and have asked anyone with information about possible criminal activity by him or others to contact them. Tuesday morning, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office said they have had calls come into the tip line, and that people should continue to call. The tip line number is 614-849-1777.
Former Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs asked the FBI to assist in an investigation of the vice squad in September, after it was placed under review a couple weeks earlier. Mitchell is also under investigation for the shooting death of Donna Castleberry on August 23, 2018 during an alleged prostitution sting. Castleberry was shot multiple times inside Mitchell's car, after authorities said she stabbed him in the hand.
Mitchell is currently being held in federal custody at a northwest Ohio Detention Center, and a detention hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.