Cop Who Dodged Sentence for Killing Sex Worker Gets 11 Years for Abducting More Sex Workers

The victims received no restitution payment.


Former vice cop Andrew Mitchell has been sentenced to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty late last year to two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of tampering. Mitchell, who was employed for many years as a police officer in Columbus, Ohio, is accused of picking up sex workers and sexually assaulting them.

This week, a federal judge sentenced him to the maximum prison sentence recommended by prosecutors, plus a fine of $300 and five years of supervised release.

It's something, at least.

But his victims will receive no restitution payment. And last year, Mitchell walked on much more serious charges involving the killing of Donna Castleberry.


Castleberry's Death

Mitchell fatally shot the 23-year-old while she was trapped in his unmarked police car. He later claimed he killed Castleberry in self-defense after she stabbed him in the hand.

"Donna entered the front passenger door of Mitchell's vehicle and sat in the passenger seat next to Mitchell," according to a civil complaint against Mitchell filed by Castleberry's sister. "Mitchell than [sic] drove her to secluded location at or near South Yale Avenue, Columbus, Ohio in an alley and parked his vehicle in a manner which would prevent Donna from exiting the vehicle."

The Franklin County Coroner's Office called the death a homicide, and a grand jury indicted Mitchell on homicide and involuntary manslaughter charges. But a jury couldn't reach a verdict in the first trial, leading a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge to declare a mistrial. And a jury returned a verdict of not guilty in the second trial, despite the multiple holes in Mitchell's story.

Mitchell also faced a civil lawsuit from a Jane Doe who alleged that in 2017, Mitchell told her he would arrest her for outstanding warrants but also said "give that pretty ass up and you won't go to jail." According to Doe's complaint, Mitchell handcuffed her to the backseat of the car and then raped her, then picked her up and did it again the following year. In 2022, the plaintiff in the Jane Doe case dismissed the case and it's not clear why. It's also unclear whether this Jane Doe is one of the women Mitchell is accused of detaining in the federal case.


The Federal Case

In 2019, federal prosecutors accused Mitchell of picking up sex workers on false pretenses and then trapping them in his car and sexually assaulting them. He was charged with nine criminal counts, including multiple counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and multiple counts of tampering with a witness, victim, or informant.

Mitchell told one victim "he was a police officer and acted as if he were doing a check for any outstanding warrants on the victim," then "used this ruse to handcuff the victim to the doorknob of his vehicle," according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office last December. "He drove the victim to a nearby parking lot with multiple dumpsters and forcible [sic] held and detained the victim against her will before dropping her off at her boyfriend's residence." Mitchell picked up another victim and "began discussing the victim's rates for sexual activity before announcing that he was an officer with the vice unit and said she was going to jail," according to prosecutors. "Mitchell kidnapped the victim and drove her to Lindbergh Park, holding her against her will."

That's the activity to which Mitchell pleaded guilty, along with removing and destroying potential evidence from a rental apartment he owned. (Specifically, he disposed of and bleached potential evidence "so the FBI could not gather evidence if they came to search it," per his pleas.)

But this isn't the whole story.

Prosecutors initially accused him of sexually assaulting the two women he picked up, and though this was not mentioned as part of the announcement of Mitchell's plea, prosecutors explain why in a sentencing report.

Mitchell's lawyers "objected to all references to sexual assault…within the presentence report as the negotiated plea agreement and accompanying Statement of Facts did not stipulate to the occurrence of any sexual activity," notes the government's sentencing memorandum. "The plea agreement was the result of significant negotiation in the face of a potentially very difficult trial for both sides. While both victims have been cooperative with law enforcement and indicated a willingness to testify, they both also indicated a strong preference for this case to be resolved short of trial. This dilemma led to this resolution and the need for a factual determination of this issue to be done at sentencing."

Nonetheless, "the evidence supports a finding that sexual assaults occurred," the government stated. "While Mitchell continues to deny any sexual involvement with these women, there is no explanation for [his] admitted behavior" of handcuffing one victim to a doorknob or taking one victim to a secluded park and detaining her there unless "more was going on than just Mitchell abusing the powers of his badge to only detain someone. "Further, significant evidence corroborated the testimony of the victims that Mitchell took advantage of the depravation of their liberty to further assault and sexually victimize them."


More Victims? 

Castleberry and the two victims in the federal case are almost certainly not the only women that Mitchell preyed on.  "Mitchell intimidated and hindered at least three other additional victims from communicating with law enforcement and the ongoing grand jury looking into his illegal conduct," the government alleges in its sentencing report.

Prosecutors also note the vulnerability sex workers face when a cop is their assailant.

"Mitchell purposely targeted [sex workers] in the belief that their complaints of assault and sexual compromise would not be believed by law enforcement suspected of being too aligned with one of their own," the government claims.

"Throughout the FBI investigation, female interviewees explained their doubts and hesitation in reporting Mitchell due to fears of retaliation and being disbelieved. Mitchell routinely used this dynamic to his advantage as both a police officer (and a landlord) in seeking sexual conquest and control while ignoring the law he was sworn to uphold."


Columbus Vice

"Andrew Mitchell betrayed his oath, the values of the Columbus Division of Police and the trust of our community. He used his position to target and exploit some of the most vulnerable in our community. We hope the close of this dark, painful chapter brings some measure of peace to everyone he wronged," the Columbus Division of Police said in a statement last December.

Mitchell isn't the only member of the Columbus Division of Police to have faced misconduct allegations in recent years, though the accusations against him were by far the most serious.

Members of the vice unit improperly arrested Stormy Daniels in 2018.

Two of the cops involved in Daniels' arrest—Steven G. Rosser and Whitney R. Lancaster—were arrested on federal criminal charges unrelated to the Daniels case but also involving strip clubs. Lancaster was acquitted at trial but Rosser was found guilty of conspiracy against rights. Rosser was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

Columbus police temporarily disbanded the vice squad in 2019 and had the FBI's public corruption task force look into it.

Police replaced the vice squad with something called the Police and Community Together (PACT) Unit, which was meant to be more transparent and accountable. The PACT page on the city of Columbus website now says "page not found."

These days, "prostitution arrests are made by uniformed PACT officers in marked cruisers," reported Columbus Monthly. "'PACT also has a policy to not trap or block women in their vehicles. If an individual wants out of the vehicle, they let them out,'" former Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Knight told the publication.