Melbourne school district administrator denies charges
Melbourne High School assistant principal Steven D. Mitchell waived his right to a formal arraignment and pleaded not guilty to a variety of sexual abuse charges July 12 in Izard County Circuit Court.
Mitchell, 29, of Pineville was charged June 11 with multiple counts of sexual assault, indecent exposure and related charges after an investigation by Arkansas State Police investigator Becky Vacco and Crimes Against Children investigator Janette Cooper.
Mitchell, who has been an agriculture teacher in the Melbourne School District for six and a half years, was placed on administrative leave by the Melbourne School Board when the sexual abuse allegations surfaced in June.
According to 16th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Don McSpadden, Mitchell coerced male students, age 13 to 18, into exposing their genitals and committing sexual acts on multiple occasions.
The incidents allegedly occurred on school-sponsored Future Farmers of America trips and in the Melbourne High School Agri Building from the spring of 2002 to the spring of 2004.
Mitchell has been charged with two counts of sexual assault in the first degree, class B felonies; two counts of sexual abuse in the second degree, class B felonies; solicitation to commit sexual assault in the second degree, a class C felony; sexual indecency with a child, a class D felony; five counts of indecent exposure, class A misdemeanors; and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, class B misdemeanors.
Mitchell is free on a $100,000 bond. His trial could begin in November.
Mitchell is represented by attorneys Tom Thompson of Batesville and Jack Lassiter of Little Rock.
In other Circuit Court news, prison escapee David L. Armstrong pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to multiple charges stemming from his June 21 escape from the Izard County Detention Center.
According to the Izard County Sheriff's Office, Armstrong escaped from the detention center through a fence during inmate exercises. Armstrong was apprehended the next day in the Hunter Mountain area near Knob Creek.
During his escape, Armstrong allegedly stole some clothes and a gun from a cabin near where he was captured.
Armstrong was originally incarcerated at the Izard County Detention Center June 14 for drug, burglary and firearms charges in Stone County.
Armstrong has been charged with escape in the second degree, a class D felony; residential burglary, a class B felony; theft of property, a class C felony; and possession of a firearm by a certain person, a class B felony.
Armstrong has previous burglary convictions and an assault conviction in Oklahoma. Armstong's bond on his Izard County charges is $50,000.