Subdeacon Robert Aaron Mitchell was a minor cleric in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), Romanian Episcopate. He attended Saint Raphael of Brooklyn Church in Detroit, Michigan.
Mitchell was convicted of child abduction in 1998 in Illinois. Following his conviction, Mitchell returned to his home state of Michigan. He was registered in Michigan as a tier 3 sex offender and was under a lifetime requirement to register. (Tier 3 sex offenses are considered by the state to be the most serious of all sex crime convictions in Michigan.)
On November 18, 2001, he was received into the Orthodox Church by Archbishop Nathaniel Popp and joined Saint Raphael. During his first year as a member of this church Mitchell served as Head Usher and as Director of Fundraising on the parish council. Despite his conviction, on March 2, 2003, he was tonsured as a Reader and made a Subdeacon by Popp.
Mitchell was also elected president of the Council of Orthodox Christian Churches of Metropolitan Detroit on December 8, 2009. He continued to serve in this position through at least April of 2013.
In addition, Mitchell was involved with another Orthodox group called the Brotherhood of Saint Moses the Black. He founded the Detroit chapter of the group and served as its first president. This national group is an Orthodox outreach to the African American community.
According to Popp, Mitchell was officially removed from all positions of leadership during the course of an investigation into new allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor. The subdeacon was barred from all liturgical activity and from contact with minors at Saint Raphael at the beginning of the investigation, May 23, 2013. He was told to resign as president of the Council of Orthodox Christian Churches in Detroit and did so on May 23, 2013. On November 20, 2013, Mitchell was stripped of the title of subdeacon, indefinitely forbidden to have any contact with minors at the parish, and no longer allowed to have keys to the church after the allegations against him were substantiated by the OCA’s Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations (ORSMA).
Also according to the archbishop, the entire parish was informed of Mitchell’s sex offender status as well as the outcome of the investigation by ORSMA. Parishioners were told that Mitchell posed a high risk and should not have contact with minors. In response, Church leaders decided to bar Mitchell from services and activities at the parish and have the priest minister to him in his home. Mitchell has also been refrained from receiving the sacraments.
Popp answered questions about the situation during coffee hour at Saint Raphael on March 30, 2014. The archbishop is in contact with the victim’s family.
Finally, Popp wrote that the Detroit police were made aware of the outcome of the investigation, and that ORSMA is considering additional steps to inform other communities of the risk Mitchell poses. The former subdeacon must inform his parish priest if he opts to attend another faith community.
On June 18, 2014, the former subdeacon was charged with 3 counts of “Child Sexually Abusive Commercial Activity” and one count of “Criminal Sexual Conduct — Second Degree (person under 13).” The criminal sexual conduct charge was dismissed on July 23rd. Two of other three counts were dismissed as part of a plea bargain.
Mitchell pleaded guilty to one count of “Child Sexually Abusive Commercial Activity” on October 9, 2014 (Case No. 14-006322-01-FH). On December 15th, he was sentenced to a term of 7 years 6 months to 20 years in prison. According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, the earliest Mitchell can be released is April 30, 2022, the latest October 31, 2034. A copy of the register of actions in the case is linked above.