Columbus Police Vice officer Andrew Mitchell has retired in "bad standing" from the department, days after being indicted by the Justice Department on seven federal charges.
Mitchell was arrested and charged last week with deprivation of civil rights under the color of law. He's accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting multiple victims under the guise of an arrest. Mitchell also faces charges of witness tampering and making false statements to federal agents.
Mitchell filed for retirement on March 13, department spokeswoman Denise Alex-Bouzounis confirmed, two days after being indicted by a federal grand jury. Mitchell is officially listed as having retired in "bad standing."
The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Board will decide whether Mitchell will be able to keep his pension.
Mitchell, who worked on solicitation cases, was relieved of duty last year amid internal and FBI investigations into the Vice Unit. Columbus Police Interim Chief Tom Quinlan announced Tuesday he disbanded the Vice Unit, removing or reassigning all remaining members.
"While today's decision is not a reflection on all the officers assigned to Vice, it has become clear there is a better way of addressing the community's needs when it comes to the enforcement of prostitution, alcohol and gambling," Quinlan said Monday.
According to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman, in July 2017 Mitchell allegedly kidnapped a victim under the guise of an arrest, transported them to another location, and forced them to perform oral sex in exchange for their freedom.
Mitchell allegedly forced a second victim to have vaginal sex in September 2017. In the summer of 2018, Mitchell allegedly kidnapped the second victim under the guise of an arrest, transported them to another location, and forced them to have anal sex in exchange for their freedom.
Authorities allege Mitchell attempted to tamper with two witnesses, and attempted to "influence, delay and prevent the testimony of a fifth victim in an official proceeding before a federal grand jury."
Mitchell is also charged with providing false information to FBI agents in September 2018, claiming he "had never had sex with a prostitute." Authorities allege Mitchell has engaged in sex with multiple prostitutes and paid money for sex.
In August 2018, Mitchell came under scrutiny for fatally shooting 23-year-old Donna Castleberry while arresting her on prostitution charges. According to Columbus Police, “an altercation occurred” in the back of Mitchell’s unmarked car during which Castleberry stabbed him in the hand. According to the coroner’s report, Mitchell shot Castleberry three times.
Castleberry's death, along with the July 2018 arrest of Stormy Daniels, prompted Columbus Police to suspend Vice Unit operations and launch an internal review.
Alex-Bouzounis says the department did not begin the termination process for Mitchell, a 31-year department veteran, but says it would have had he not filed for retirement.
Mitchell faces life in prison if convicted. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said his office is reviewing and possibly dismissing all open and pending cases solely worked on by Mitchell. So far, Klein has dismissed 18 cases charging women with prostitution-related offenses.
The office will also review past convictions where Mitchell was the sole arresting officer.
If you have information to share about the Vice Unit, contact WOSU at firstname.lastname@example.org.