The Columbus, OH cop who shot and killed Donna Dalton, a sex worker he alleges he was trying to take into custody, was indicted Monday on federal charges of kidnapping and rape, in a separate investigation. Columbus Vice Squad Officer Andrew Mitchell was arrested by the FBI for kidnapping at least two other women "under the guise of an arrest and forcing them to engage in sex for their freedom."
Mitchell, 55, a 30-year-veteran of the Columbus Police Department and former homicide detective, is accused of preying on at least two women, also sex workers. In a press conference, U.S. Attorney General for the Southern District of Ohio, Ben C. Glassman said Mitchell picked the women up under the pretense of officially detaining them, then transported them to another location and demanded sex in exchange for releasing them. He is also charged with witness tampering, making false statements, and obstruction of justice (for allegedly coercing and threatening individuals involved in the investigation), and deprivation of rights under the color of law.
The latter charge can be brought by the federal government against a federal, state, or local law enforcement officer willfully deprives a person of a constitutional right or privilege. while acting or purporting to act as a public official.
Andrea Ritchie, author of Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color, and a researcher at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, explained the charge to Refinery29, saying, "If someone is knowingly and willfully depriving someone of their Constitutional rights when acting under color of law it means they're using the authority given to them – they're the sheriff, they're a police officer, they carry a badge – by ordering someone to come with them with the intent to violate that person's constitutional rights. In this case it would be violating the right to bodily integrity by forcing a person to engage in sexual acts."
In his position as a vice officer, Mitchell had unfettered access to a vulnerable population of sex workers.
"These officers who work in vice often believe they can act with impunity with respect to the people that they're arresting, and often that's the case," Ritchie said. "Because when people do come forward to make complaints, those investigations are barely started, and if they are, they're never completed and often the complainant's 'credibility' becomes the issue."
Indeed, these are not the only crimes Mitchell has been associated with in Columbus's sex work community. In August, as reported by The Appeal, Mitchell was working undercover when he says he tried to take 23-year-old Donna Dalton into a custody. She allegedly stabbed him in the hand. He shot her nine times, killing her. Dalton left behind two young children. In the wake of that incident, Columbus police revealed that Mitchell was the subject of numerous complaints and an internal affairs investigation. Monday's charges stem from that investigation, begun in 2017.
Dalton's case is expected to be taken to a grand jury soon.
The Columbus Vice Department has also come under fire for last year's arrest of Stormy Daniels during an appearance at a strip club. Undercover officers, who allegedly asked Daniels if they could place their face between her breasts, said that she violated the Community Defense Act which prohibits dancers and customers from touching. The misdemeanor charges brought against her were quickly dropped.
Mitchell was relieved of duty in September after Columbus police asked federal investigators to assist in a department wide investigation of the vice personnel. He will remain in jail ahead of his trial and faces life imprisonment if found guilty.