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Ohio vice officer accused of detaining women and 'forcing them to engage in sex for their freedom'

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BY TARA MORGAN, WSYX/WTTE

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CIRCA via WSYX/WTTE) — A Columbus police officer is facing federal charges of depriving victims of their constitutional rights "by kidnapping the victims under the guise of an arrest and forcing them to engage in sex for their freedom."

Andrew Mitchell, 55, was arrested at Columbus Division of Police headquarters Monday morning.

The charges were presented in federal court Monday afternoon. He faces three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, two counts witness tampering, one count witness tampering, and one count of making false statements.

"The conduct alleged in this indictment is shocking and revolting," FBI Special Agent Todd Wickerham said.

Mitchell is accused of kidnapping three different victims under the guise of an arrest, then taking them to another location and forcing them to engage in sexual acts in order to be released. According to the indictment, he did it to one victim at least twice. Federal investigators say they are still investigating, and they are asking anyone who may have been a victim or have any information about Mitchell or possibly any other officers to come forward.

If found guilty, Mitchell could get life in prison for the charges of Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law, which is a charge that means he was using his position as a law enforcement officer to commit crimes and deny a victim constitutional rights. "That is a nightmarish breach of trust and that is a federal crime," U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman said in announcing the charges.

Mitchell is also accused of multiple counts of witness tampering, and making false statements during the investigation.

Mitchell, a 30-year veteran, is also under investigation for the shooting death of Donna Castleberry (also known as Donna Dalton) on August 23, 2018 during an alleged prostitution sting. The two were in Mitchell's vehicle at the time, and authorities say Castleberry stabbed him in the hand before Mitchell opened fire. Castleberry was not one of the victims outlined in the indictment.

"We're glad that there has been a step forward towards getting justice for Donna, but there is still a long way to go," said sister Bobbi McCalla.

The Police Chief placed the vice squad under review shortly after the incident, and in September requested assistance from the FBI in the investigation.

Mayor Andrew Ginther released the following statement:

"Officer Andrew Mitchell of the Columbus Division of Police has been indicted and arrested on serious charges. The Division took swift action to bring in the FBI to handle the investigation in its earliest days. Our officers are given tremendous power to keep our residents safe – and the overwhelming majority are dedicated to serving our residents honorably every day. But when an officer abuses that power, the City of Columbus is committed to holding him or her accountable. The FBI’s investigation into CPD’s Vice unit continues, while local authorities are investigating the shooting death of Donna Castleberry by Officer Mitchell."

Tom Quinlan, acting Chief of Police for Columbus Division of Police, shared this on Twitter:

A detention hearing will take place Wednesday.

"I certainly hope that no woman has to go through what the victims of Andrew Mitchell have went through," said McCalla, "and I am afraid that maybe it took my sister losing her life for him to be held accountable."

The US Attorney's Office confirmed Tuesday that several calls have been received on its tip line about Mitchell. Officials didn't confirm what details they were being told from the tip line. They urged the public to continue to provide any information they might have at 614-849-1777.

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