Former Columbus Police Vice officer Andrew Mitchell pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and manslaughter in court Friday. He is being held without bond after being indicted by a grand jury in the fatal shooting of Donna Castleberry.
Mitchell appeared at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on Friday afternoon wearing a protective vest. He waived the reading of his indictment before entering his pleas. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Mitchell shot Castleberry on August 23, 2018, while arresting her on prostitution charges, after she stabbed his hand inside his unmarked vehicle. Castleberry faced a misdemeanor soliciting charge from a July arrest.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien argued Friday for Mitchell to be held without bond, saying his release "would pose a substantial risk of serious physical harm to others."
O'Brien outlined some of the state's case against Mitchell in a memorandum filed Friday to the Franklin County Clerk of Courts. He said Mitchell recorded his interaction with Castleberry, and the prosecution plans to present that recording as evidence.
In the filing, O'Brien wrote that Mitchell was not carrying proper I.D. while arresting Castleberry, and so she didn't believe he was an officer.
"When she questioned his status as a police officer, and asked for his badge as identification he was unable to produce one since he left it on a uniform used for special duty," O'Brien said. He added that Columbus Police requires plainclothes and undercover officers to carry their badge and I.D.
Castleberry "expressed the belief that she was being kidnapped and would be raped rather than arrested because she did not believe he was a police officer," O'Brien continues. "When, despite the lack of his badge he attempted to handcuff her, Ms. Castleberry resisted the arrest and cut the defendant with a knife in the palm of his hand."
To escape Mitchell, Castleberry then jumped to the back seat of the unmarked vehicle, where she was locked in by child control locks. Mitchell shot Castleberry six times from the front seat of the car or just outside the vehicle, killing her.
According to O'Brien, the grand jury found Mitchell's use of deadly force was "far beyond the scope necessary to protect himself from any additional harm."
Mitchell's charges marks the first time O'Brien indicted an on-duty officer accused of killing someone. O'Brien has served as Franklin County prosecutor for 23 years.
Mitchell retired in bad standing from Columbus Police last month, after being indicted by federal prosecutors on multiple charges unrelated to the Castleberry case. The FBI alleges Mitchell kidnapped victims under the guise of an arrest and forced them to have sex in exchange for their release.
Mitchell faces federal charges of depriving victims’ rights while acting under the color of the law, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal agents. He pleaded not guilty to all those charges, as well.
If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Mitchell was already being held without bond after government officials called him a flight risk and argued he posed a danger to the community.
Mitchell was a 31-year department veteran who worked primarily on solicitation cases within the Vice Unit. He was relieved of duty in September amid multiple misconduct investigations.
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