As dirty cop stories go, the allegations leveled against New Orleans Police Department Officer Ananie Mitchell could be filed under “S,” for “skanky.”
Mitchell faced a charge of soliciting a prostitute after he was accused in March of propositioning a man who said he first met the veteran officer at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
Mitchell’s alleged offer, made in a series of racy text messages, was to pay $100 for the privilege of performing fellatio on the man.
“U look like u working with something nice,” Mitchell allegedly texted the man, in one of the less suggestive missives cited in a police report. “I give you a bill too.”
The FBI got involved, along with the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau. They bought the man who reported the solicitation what he later described as a cheap, “like $10” jacket to conceal a microphone, court records show. The jacket was too big, so they cut a hole in his clothes to make the device work, he said.
And in late February, the wired man walked up to the city gas station on Broad Street as Mitchell was filling up a city vehicle.
“I got the hundred; get in,” Mitchell allegedly told him before the man ran off.
But the case against Mitchell, who was relegated to desk duty after his March 3 arrest, broke down Thursday afternoon as he was slated to stand trial.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office dropped the solicitation charge after Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet refused to grant prosecutors another continuance.
The purported victim wasn’t there, and prosecutors couldn’t produce what they claimed were damaging, untaped statements from Mitchell following his arrest. Assistant District Attorney Michael Danon told Charbonnet he had pressed police for those supposed statements, to no avail.
Mitchell’s attorney, Tanya Picou Faia, insisted that the officer never admitted anything and that prosecutors dragged the case forward despite a dearth of evidence against Mitchell and no expectation that their star witness would show up at a trial.
Faia said an earlier prosecutor admitted that the man who claimed he received Mitchell’s risqué offer had suffered a brain injury that left him unable to testify.
She also said Mitchell’s cellphone held none of the salacious texts that police cited, that the purported victim never identified the officer by name and that nothing came from the recording of the meeting at the gas pumps.
Mitchell had been off-duty, filling up his take-home car, Faia said, when the man approached.
“He was charged because he pulled up to the gas station at the wrong time,” Faia said, alleging a hatchet job. “Sometimes you have to walk away gracefully instead of leaving this guy on desk duty for eight months.”
But Christopher Bowman, spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, said prosecutors have no intention of letting Mitchell walk free.
“The District Attorney’s Office is waiting to receive information from certain law enforcement agencies that is essential for the prosecution of the case. We have not yet received that information. Accordingly, we were not prepared to proceed to trial,” Bowman said. “The office intends to reinstitute the case once it receives that information.”
The NOPD placed Mitchell, a five-year veteran who was assigned to the NOPD’s Gang Task Force, on emergency suspension following his arrest. He later was assigned to a desk, Faia said.
An administrative review, on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case, still awaits Mitchell either way. His attorney in that proceeding, Donovan Livaccari, said he hopes it moves quickly.
“Hopefully, we will get this show on the road so he can get back to the business of serving and protecting,” Livaccari said.
An NOPD spokesman said Mitchell will remain on desk duty for the time being.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.