Former Region 8 Teacher Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Sex Charges

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A former Melbourne teacher has pleaded not guilty to federal charges he took students across state lines to engage in sexual acts.

Steven Mitchell, 32, of Pineville, faces twelve counts involving sexual misconduct with students.  He pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday in federal court.

U.S. Magistrate John F. Forster, Jr. ordered Mitchell detained until his trial, a decision Mitchell has appealed.  Marsha Clevinger, an attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office, says a hearing for the appeal has not been set and Mitchell remains in jail.

Court documents show Mitchell, an agricultural teacher at Melbourne High School from 2002 to 2004, took seven underage children out of state and touched them or encouraged them to expose themselves.  The documents show Mitchell took the children to Georgia, Kentucky and Texas.

Mitchell pleaded guilty to two sexual assault charges in Izard County Circuit Court in August 2005.  Under a plea agreement, Mitchell received five years of probation and must register as a sex offender in Arkansas.

The federal charges Mitchell now faces are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Mitchell's federal trial is set for May 29.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)