Mitchell, a 31-year veteran with the police force, had been assigned to the department's vice unit since March 2017. The federal indictment states that as a detective for the unit, his duties included conducting "law enforcement actions for solicitation offenses." He was eventually relieved of his duties in September 2018 as a result of multiple misconduct investigations.
A release from the US Justice Department outlines three separate incidents that took place throughout 2017 in which Mitchell transported victims and forced them to perform oral, vaginal and anal sex in exchange for their freedom. In one case, the officer targeted the same woman twice.
Charging documents also indicate that Mitchell lied to FBI agents in September 2018, claiming he "had never had sex with a prostitute." According to investigators, evidence shows that Mitchell "has had sex with numerous prostitutes, including having paid women money for sex."
Additionally, it was noted that once Mitchell became aware of the federal investigation, he attempted to influence two witnesses and "attempted to influence, delay and prevent the testimony of a fifth victim in an official proceeding before a federal grand jury."
The officer is presently charged with three counts of depriving individuals of their civil rights while acting under the color of law, two counts of witness tampering, one count of obstructing justice and one count of making false statements to federal agents. If convicted, Mitchell could face life in prison.
"When you have a police officer who not only commits a crime, but does so under color of law, under his authority as a police officer, that is an extraordinarily serious offense, that is a nightmarish breach of trust, and that is a federal crime," US Attorney Benjamin Glassman said in a statement.
"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."
Mark Collins, Mitchell's attorney, said Monday following his client's appearance in court that the allegations are "unfounded" and that the officer would be "exercis[ing] his right to a jury trial in the federal system."
In August 2018, Mitchell came under investigation by state officials over the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Donna Castleberry, who was reportedly being arrested by the officer on prostitution charges.
At the time, Columbus police indicated that Castleberry stabbed Mitchell in the hand after an altercation broke out between the pair in his unmarked patrol car. The officer responded by discharging his department-issued firearm three times at Castleberry, killing her.
Local media station WOSU reported that Kaitlin Patton, the individual who phoned police about the 2018 incident, stated that her boyfriend had heard Castleberry yelling for help, saying that Mitchell was going to kidnap her, before bullets were fired.
At present, the altercation with Castleberry is not part of the DOJ indictment. However, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien told the AP that he expects that case to be taken up before a grand jury as well.
Federal investigators began their probe into Mitchell's dealings in late 2018 after then-Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs requested assistance from the FBI to conduct an investigation into the operations carried out by the vice unit.
The move was prompted by the July arrest of adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. After wrapping up their internal review of the July arrest, Columbus police announced last week that Daniels' arrest was improper, but not pre-planned or politically motivated.