When former Benicia High basketball player James Mitchell was arrested at Benicia High School in December 2011 he faced a felony charge of statutory rape. On September 7, 2012 Mitchell pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was given three years summary probation. Mitchell will not have to register as a sex offender or regularly check in with a probation officer.
The reduced charge came after Mitchell’s attorney, Vince Maher, made a motion on August 28, 2012 to dismiss all charges claiming Mitchell was a victim of discriminatory prosecution.
The father of the girl Mitchell had sex with learned of the affair when he checked his 14-year-old daughter’s cell phone and read text messages between Mitchell and his daughter. Mitchell was 18 at the time and according to court records he thought the girl was 15.
Police arrested Mitchell after he and the girl told police, in separate interviews, that they had consensual sexual intercourse.
Court records also show the girl’s father reported finding text messages indicating that, on a different occasion, his daughter had sexual intercourse with another 18-year-old man, Joseph Darosa, after the two of them had smoked marijuana.
The girl confirmed to police that the two had engaged in intercourse but Darosa denied it when interviewed by officers.
According to Maher, Mitchell’s defense attorney, the biggest difference between the two incidents is the skin color of the two men involved. Mitchell is African-American, Darosa is not.
“I think it was a racially motivated prosecution-not by the District Attorney’s office- by the parents,” said Maher.
After his arrest, Mitchell, who was a starring player on the Benicia High School basketball team, was suspended from the team.
“You would think justice is and always should be colorblind but we don’t live in a courtroom,” said Maher.
According to Maher, Mitchell is now attending a Bay Area community college and is once again playing basketball.
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