Pineville man to seek sex offender level reduction

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

It has been 13 years since Steven Mitchell pled guilty to two counts of sexual assault in the second degree, class B felonies. With the plea agreement, Mitchell served no prison time; was on probation for five years and was placed on the sex offender registry.

The charges were filed June 11, 2004 and Mitchell voluntarily surrendered himself to law enforcement. Though charges were filed early in June, the investigation had been going on quite some time prior. There were multiple victims in the case who had similar encounters with Mitchell, who was the agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor at Melbourne High School at the time.

When news broke about Mitchell’s arrest, Areawide Media’s then reporter George Jared covered the case. In Jared’s article it was stated: “According to 16th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Donald McSpadden, Mitchell is accused of coercing male students, ages 13 to 18, into exposing their genitals and committing sexual acts. The incidents are alleged to have occurred at Melbourne High School and on school sponsored Future Farmers of America (FFA) trips, from the spring of 2002 to the spring of 2004.

He was originally charged with two counts of sexual assault in the first degree, class B felonies; two counts of sexual assault 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. Before Mitchell’s case was sent to trial in August 2005, he pled guilty.

Currently, Mitchell is a Level 3 sex offender. Just a few short weeks ago, on Nov. 27, Mitchell filed paperwork in the Circuit Court of Izard County, Civil Division, which was an official complaint against the State of Arkansas Sex Offender Assessment Committee (SOAC).

In November 2017, Mitchell started the process with SOAC and the Sex Offender Community Notification Agency (SOCNA) for a re-assessment of his status, hoping to have his level downgraded. Definitions of each level from the Sex Offender Assessment Committee Guidelines and Procedures:

Level 1: Typically offenders in this category have no prior history of sexual offending and the community can be protected with notification inside the home and to local law enforcement authorities. Level 1 would not generally be appropriate with prepubescent victim(s), predatory behavior, sexual interest in children, a history of working with children or around children if the victim was a child, and allegations of force or threats of physical harm were used in the offense.

Level 2: Typically offenders in this category have a history of sexual offending where notification inside the home is insufficient. Community notification requires notice to the offender’s known victim preference and those likely to come into contact with the offender.

Level 3: Typically offenders in this category have a history of repeat sexual offending, and/or strong antisocial, violent or predatory personality characteristics. These are individuals whose offense and criminal history require notification throughout the community.

Level 4: Sexually Violent Predator refers to a person who has been adjudicated guilty of a sex offense or acquitted on the grounds of mental disease or defect of a sex offense that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sex offenses. The designation indicates that the highest and most visible means of community notification is required.

Mitchell received a letter from SOAC in January of this year stating his appeal request was received but there was a delay not related to the case, therefore; the review would take longer than the typical 30 days. He made contact with SOCNA Administrator Sherri Flynn in May, who said the delay was “due to a backlog from ‘staff attorney turn-over,’ but the backlog should be cleared within two to three months.”

In his administrative appeal letter written in January, Mitchell said he was acquitted in Federal court on charges based on evidence provided in his plea in state court. “The Sex Offender Assessment Committee and I agree that I have successfully completed sex offender treatment and should receive a departure,” said Mitchell.

During the re-assessment process, Mitchell funded a polygraph examination for himself, which he passed. “I accept responsibility for the pain my actions have caused. I live in a stable home, have a stable marriage, and have stable employment. I never again want to cause anyone pain. Thank you for considering of my appeal.”

In the complaint filed it is stated, “Petitioner has suffered material prejudice as a result of the Level 3 sex offender rating, including restrictions of his parental rights, residency, volunteer activities, and employment, not merely reputation, and he is, therefore, entitled to relief.” Along with, “Petitioner’s request for administrative review and subsequent appeal amendments have established sufficient cause for SOAC to administratively lower the community notification level and he is therefore entitled to relief.”

Areawide Media will closely follow the online court documents for updates as they become available.

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