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Ohio officer forced women to have sex before releasing them, feds say

Columbus vice squad Officer Andrew Mitchell, 55, was arrested Monday and faces a detention hearing this week.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A longtime police officer forced women to have sex with him under threat of an arrest, pressured others to help cover up crimes, and lied to federal investigators when he said he'd never had sex with prostitutes, according to charges unveiled Monday.

Columbus vice squad Officer Andrew Mitchell, 55, was arrested Monday and faces a detention hearing this week. He is charged with witness tampering, obstruction of justice, making a false statement to federal investigators, and deprivation of rights under color of law, the language used to describe crimes committed by police officers while on duty.

A federal indictment accused Mitchell, a 30-year veteran, of arresting two different women and forcing them to have sex before he would release them.

Image: Columbus vice squad Officer Andrew Mitchell.
Columbus vice squad Officer Andrew Mitchell. Department of Justice / AP

Later, during the federal investigation, Mitchell lied when he told the FBI he'd never had sex with a prostitute, since Mitchell knew "he has had sex with numerous prostitutes, including having paid women money for sex," according to the indictment.

Mitchell has also been investigated by state authorities after police said he fatally shot a woman who stabbed him in the hand while sitting in his unmarked police car. Donna Castleberry, 23, had struggled with drugs and was likely working the streets as a prostitute, her family has said. She left behind two young daughters.

Committing the alleged crimes while on duty is "a nightmarish breach of trust," said Ben Glassman, the U.S. attorney for the southern half of Ohio.

"We rely on the police to serve and protect us, and when you have a police officer who commits a crime, that is a very serious breach of trust," he said.

Police officers take an oath to the constitution and promise to obey federal, state and local laws, said Thomas Quinlan, interim Columbus police chief.

"The community has every right to be disgusted by the news, as well as everyone who wears this badge," he said.

Mitchell plans to fight the charges and enter a not guilty plea, his attorney said Monday.

"These allegations are unfounded, and my client is going to exercise his right to a jury trial in the federal system," Collins said. His understanding, he said, is that the alleged victims named in the indictment were prostitutes.

Castleberry's family cheered the news of Mitchell's indictment.

"Our family has been asking questions for a long time," said Mary Laile, a cousin to Castleberry. "We miss her everyday and days like today feel like a success, but then we remember that we still do not have Donna with us, so it's hard to really view it as a successful day."

Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien said Monday he expects to take that case to a grand jury soon.

Mitchell plans to appear before the grand jury, Mitchell said, "and testify truthfully and indicate as to why it was a good use of force."

The charges were the latest black eye for the vice squad, which has also been under scrutiny since last year's arrest of porn actress Stormy Daniels. Charges were dropped hours later.

Earlier this year, Daniels sued several Columbus police officers for $2 million over that arrest. Daniels' federal defamation lawsuit alleges that officers conspired to retaliate against her because of her claims she had sex with Donald Trump before he became president.

Last week, an internal police investigation concluded Daniels' arrest was improper, but not planned or politically motivated.