I was walking home from the grocery store earlier this week, when I saw an odd flier stapled to a telephone pole.
It wouldn’t have been odd any other week of the year, but it was odd this week.
It was a flier for the weekly church service at Tower of Power, the non-denominational Protestant church a couple of blocks from my house. They seem to put up a new one every week. The services are seasonally themed; this was their Back to School service, scheduled for Sunday, the eighteenth. A photo of the pastor, Everett Mitchell, was on the flier, so he was definitely the one scheduled to preach as always.
This was all perfectly ordinary except for the fact that last week, Mitchell was indicted for several felony sex offenses, as I wrote about at the time. And he was scheduled to be arraigned on the fourteenth. That was when I was told he’d be arrested. And I was a bit shocked that he was so sure he’d be available to preach at a Sunday morning service the next weekend, all things considered.
But I was wrong. I just read in the paper that Pastor Mitchell was released on personal recognizance after his arraignment.
He was arraigned on the following charges, and here I’m reading straight from the Herald Star: “two felony counts of sexual battery, two felony counts of attempted sexual battery, one felony count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and one felony count of attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He also was charged with sexual imposition, a misdemeanor.” He pleaded not guilty, for the record. And I have no way of knowing whether he did it or not. Maybe this is all some bizarre case of mistaken identity that will be easily cleared up in court. I hope it’s all a mistake. We’ll have to see how things unfold at the trial, which as far as I know hasn’t been scheduled yet.
But you can count me as flabbergasted that they let him go on his own recognizance, no bail, nothing, after he was arraigned for six felony sex offenses and one misdemeanor.
This is especially true considering that the article goes on to mention that that same day, another alleged sex offender had his bond continued for two hundred fifty thousand dollars– and that only for two alleged felony counts and one alleged misdemeanor.
Prosecutor Jane Hanlin seemed to anticipate some questions about this. Again from the Herald-Star: “The disparity between the cases wasn’t lost on Hanlin, who said there was no preferential treatment for the pastor. She said Mitchell wasn’t required to post bond because he “appeared voluntarily the first time, the way you’re supposed to.”
“If you appear, as he did, when you are supposed to, then the court will assume you will make (future) court appearances,” Hanlin said Thursday. “It was never a ‘special treatment’ kind of thing. He was never in custody.”
I’m not an attorney, but is that really how being indicted for six felonies and a misdemeanor usually works? If they show up on time the first time, the prosecutor assumes they’ll cooperate and leaves it at that?
I’ve asked my friend and fellow blogger Alexandria Goddard about this. She knows quite a bit more about Steubenville courts than I do, and she’s been going through the records for the past couple of days. So far she’s only found one case in which an accused sex offender was released on his own recognizance, and that was a former cop. If she finds anything else I’ll update this post. But for the moment, it looks like just showing up on time for your court date isn’t normally enough to get an accused sex offender released like that here in Jefferson County, which is what I expected to find.
What’s going on?
I have a child who is not yet eight years old, and she likes to ride her bike with friends. There are lots of children her age in LaBelle who like to ride bikes. They play in the field beside Tower of Power. Tower of Power hosted a daycare, run by some other church groups, all summer, and I almost put Rosie in it. Apparently this investigation was going on the whole time and nobody said a word about it. Now Mitchell has been released and is going right back to work at church with access to all sorts of people. I am having a hard time believing this is normal.
Is it because he worked at Big Red? Because no news sources I can find are reporting this right now, but at least as of December 2018 he was definitely approved as a volunteer track coach for Steubenville High School,also known as Big Red. I’m told he ran on their track team when he was in high school as well. And let’s face it, that school has a reputation. If you need a refresher and don’t want to read the Wikipedia page, you can watch a movie all about it: Roll Red Roll, which is all about the Big Red Rape Case, is streaming on Netflix right now and I’m told it’s excellent. Suffice it to say, Steubenville has a record of everyone protecting alleged sex offenders associated with that school’s athletics and I have no reason to believe they’ve changed. In all the years that I’ve had to live here since then, they only seem resentful about getting caught and insistent that everything they did was not only fine but exemplary. Is that what’s going on here?
I don’t know.
I don’t know anything more than I read in the paper, and what I see stapled to utility poles in my neighborhood, and what people tell me.
But you can be assured that I’ll be glued to the paper in the coming weeks, because I have to live here, and I want to get to the bottom of this.
(Image via Pixabay)