CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge said Thursday a Cedar Rapids man charged in the robbery of a cabdriver, who was killed the same night in 2011, has been restored to competency and can now stand trial.
The trial for Johnathan D. Mitchell, 39, charged with one count of robbery affecting commerce, was put on hold last November. Mitchell was committed to a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility for treatment to restore competency.
According to law, a person is found incompetent to stand trial if they do not understand the nature and consequences of the charged crime and are not able to assist a lawyer in a defense.
Mitchell was finishing up a five-year term for forgery in a Johnson County District Court case at the time he was indicted on the robbery charge. It’s unclear whether Mitchell is back in an Iowa jail pending trial or still in a federal prison pending transfer to an Iowa jail. He remains in custody but wasn’t at Thursday’s hearing.
Christopher Nathan, Mitchell’s lawyer, asked that the court be closed for discussion about setting a new trial date because it involves trial strategy that he didn’t want to make public at this time.
U.S. Magistrate Kelly Mahoney, presiding by video conference closed the hearing and then reopened it to announce the trial would be set for sometime in 2018. No other issues were discussed.
The indictment shows Mitchell obstructed commerce — the cab company service — by “violently” robbing Catherine “Cathy” Stickley, 54, who was driving a Century Cab on April 29, 2011.
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Mitchell originally was charged with first-degree murder in Stickley’s death and first-degree robbery but he was acquitted on both counts by a Story County jury in 2013. The trial was moved from Linn County due to pretrial publicity.
The federal indictment on the new charge came in 2016. If found guilty, Mitchell faces up to 20 years in prison.
According to testimony in the 2013 trial, Stickley was stabbed 18 times in the neck and head and Mitchell’s prints were found in Stickley’s blood in the cab. The prosecution argued Mitchell needed money for crack cocaine and he killed Stickley to get it.
Mitchell admitted during the trial that he stole money from Stickley to buy crack cocaine but he said she already was dead, lying outside the cab on the ground in the 1500 block alley between Second and Third avenues SE in Cedar Rapids.
Mitchell was out on bond awaiting trial on a 2010 assault charge when Stickley was killed. Mitchell was the only suspect in the homicide and the case hasn’t been reopened.
After his acquittal on the murder charge, Mitchell was convicted and sentenced to seven years in January 2014 for the 2010 assault of Arvin Druvenga, as well as a forgery charge in Linn County, but was paroled in August 2014, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections.
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