Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 4, 2014

Authorities release assault report

TRAVERSE CITY — Authorities released details of a December incident in which Nicole Rachell Mitchell was arrested for shoplifting and assault, a week after after they initially censored parts of a report that described the events.

Mitchell, 27, was involved in a deadly shooting at her Long Lake Township condominium on March 21. Grand Traverse County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Cooney initially blacked out parts of an unrelated December arrest report because he said he considered her a suspect in the shooting case, and publishing the assault details could impede Mitchell’s chance at having a fair trial — if she’s charged in the shooting death of Roger Rex Howard, 29.

Cooney released the December arrest report on Thursday, following a state Freedom of Information Act request the Record-Eagle submitted to the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department. Cooney advised sheriff’s Capt. Randy Fewless to release the entire report.

Cooney told Fewless in a memo that he redacted the report for two reasons: releasing the information could prejudice Mitchell’s right to a fair trial and it could interfere with law enforcement proceedings.

“The subsequent reporting of the assault, even though it lacked some detail, in my opinion that diminished my reasons for redacting info in the first place,” Cooney said. “I had a couple people comment that it almost made it sound more serious than what it was, which is ironic because what I was trying to prevent was unfair prejudice to the suspect.”

Cooney said he couldn’t make a statement on how releasing the information last week could have affected law enforcement proceedings.

“If we ever get a resolution of the case I would be happy to comment on that in great detail,” he said.

Mitchell tried to shoplift from the Younkers store in the Cherryland Center in Garfield Township, according to the report. A store employee identified himself as “loss prevention” and asked her to come into his office.

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