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Questions About the Mitchell Indictment

Some facts about grand juries, charges and what's next

The+Cuyahoga+County+Justice+Center%2C+where+Mitchell+pleaded+not+guilty+at+his+May+9++arraignment.
The Cuyahoga County Justice Center, where Mitchell pleaded not guilty at his May 9  arraignment.

The Cuyahoga County Justice Center, where Mitchell pleaded not guilty at his May 9 arraignment.

The Cuyahoga County Justice Center, where Mitchell pleaded not guilty at his May 9 arraignment.

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Q: What is a grand jury?

A: A grand jury is a group of community members selected to assess an accusation and determine whether it should lead to a trial. A grand jury hears an argument from a prosecuting attorney about why a case should go to trial and decides whether the evidence presented means the case should proceed. The grand jury has the power to indict (in-dite) the accused on a criminal charge or charges, which means the case will go to an arraignment (uh-rain-ment), and then to trial.

Q: What is an indictment?

A: An indictment (in-dite-ment)formally charges the defendant with a crime. It is not required for all crimes, only felonies and other serious crimes. Felonies are categorized by severity of the crime; first-degree felonies are the most serious and fourth-degree felonies the least serious. Sexual battery is a felony of the third degree, unless the victim is less than 13 years old, in which case it is a felony of the second degree. Crime generally falls into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Felonies are the most serious of the three. They can result in longer prison sentences or larger fines, while misdemeanors can result in shorter stays in a local jail or smaller fines. Some employers refuse to hire convicted felons. 

Q: What is sexual battery?

A: According to Statute 2907.03 of the Ohio Revised Code, sexual battery occurs when someone engages in sexual conduct with another person under certain conditions. For example, sexual battery has occurred when the offender “knowingly coerces the other person to submit,” “knows that the other person’s ability to appraise the nature of or control the other person’s own conduct is substantially impaired” or knows that the victim is unaware of what’s happening. Sexual battery can also occur when “the offender is a teacher, administrator, coach, or other person in authority employed by or serving in a school” and “the other person is enrolled in or attends that school, and the offender is not enrolled in and does not attend that school.”

Q: Does the grand jury’s decision mean that the alleged sexual battery happened?

A: No. A grand jury does not conduct a trial. Mitchell is currently formally charged with sexual battery, but he will be acquitted (declared not guilty) or convicted (declared guilty) by a jury at the conclusion of a trial, during which Mitchell and his legal representatives can present evidence in his defense.

Q: Why was there a decision from the grand jury to indict Mitchell, a day after their decision to not indict him? Is there more than one case or charge?

A: According to The Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts’ website, there are two cases concerning Timothy Mitchell, each with different case numbers.

The first case was filed by the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts on March 15, and the status reads “no bill,” meaning that the grand jury did have not sufficient cause or evidence to indict the accused. The second case was filed yesterday, and the status reads “case open.”

The dates that the cases were filed, however, do not necessarily reflect the dates that they were published on the county website. The first was made visible Monday, April 24, and The Shakerite reported that evening on the grand jury’s decision not to indict Mitchell. The second was published today, and The Shakerite reported on the grand jury’s decision, in that case, to indict Mitchell. Both cases state the alleged offense to have occurred June 7, 1995.

While the proceedings of the grand jury remain confidential, a former prosecutor and defense attorney explained that following a no bill decision, prosecutors can bring cases back to grand juries after working with detectives and witnesses to gather more information or evidence. Based on such new evidence, grand juries may hand down indictments on charges they had previously declined to endorse. The second grand jury ruling in Mitchell’s case produced an indictment for the same charge and conduct alleged on the same date as the first case.Thus, only one sexual battery charge exists.

Q: What is the statute of limitations for sexual battery in Ohio?

A: House Bill 6, which was passed on May 15, 2015 by The Ohio House of Representatives, extended the limitation time for prosecuting rape or sexual battery from 20 to 25 years. In addition, if the alleged victim is younger than 18, the 25-year interval does not begin until the alleged victim becomes 18. 

Q: What is an arraignment, and what will happen at Mitchell’s May 9 arraignment?

A: At his arraignment in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Mitchell will be read his indictment by the clerk of the court, unless the defendant (Mitchell) or his attorney waives the reading. The defendant will then make a plea of guilty, not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity.

Q: What is the next step, after the arraignment?

A: If Mitchell pleads not guilty, a judge will be assigned to the case, a bond (or promise made by the defendant to appear in court, often backed up by money) will be set and the case will move into trial.

Q: Will Mitchell remain on paid administrative leave?

A: According to English teacher and Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association President John Morris, “Right now, everything stays the same. Until further notice, Mr. Mitchell is on paid administrative leave.”

Q: Could Mitchell return to work in Shaker?

A: “Until further notice,” said Morris, “he is guaranteed full employment by the district.”

However, Morris added that, “pending legal issues, when someone is not even charged, when they’re involved in a public case, the district has non-teaching positions that they can give staff members while the other part of their life is working itself out.”

According to Morris, Mitchell has been working at home, “catching up with work that was incomplete when he first went on paid administrative leave.”

He is “still a contracted employee of the district.”

Nonetheless, Morris said the district plans to “hire teachers for the two positions that have the most background knowledge necessary, the AP and, of course, the DP [IB Diploma Coordinator] courses.” In fact, the district has posted the Diploma Program Coordinator position.

Q: What does the grand jury’s decision to indict Mitchell mean for the Ohio Department of Education’s investigation?

A: The ODE will still carry out their investigation, although Morris said the ODE “typically takes longer than the law.” Mitchell is not guaranteed employment during either the criminal or ODE investigations. School districts, said Morris, “if they can find just cause, they have a process of dismissing teachers.”

“This [indictment] complicates matters beyond anyone’s anticipation,” added Morris.

Q: Are there any resources for students and staff?

A: According to a letter written by Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. and emailed to parents of high school students April 26, the district “will have counselors, psychologists, nurses and staff available for any student who needs or wants assistance.”

Morris said, “We know that this is a trigger issue for anyone who experiences that kind of trauma, and that includes staff.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “Questions About the Mitchell Indictment”

  1. Bonnie J Gordon on April 28th, 2017 10:47 am

    This is a thorough and helpful resource for the entire community. Congratulations on a job well done.

    [Reply]

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Questions About the Mitchell Indictment