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Vitte charge better late than never

Register • Apr 14, 2014 at 7:30 AM

A grand jury indicted Ohio State Highway Patrol Officer Ricky Vitte Jr. on Tuesday, charging him with disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile. 

He showed pornography to a child, the charge alleges.

The indictment will allow the state to present evidence from its investigation. There's also the possibility Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt can now better explain his baffling decision in January to drop the investigation and not pursue charges, a move many people found troubling. 

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Indicting Vitte, who through his attorney has said he did not show porn to the child and did not masturbate with the boy, gives the Patrol officer his right to due process and to defend himself against the troubling allegations.

His defense attorney, Dean Henry, who also works as a special prosecutor for Stierwalt, said in January Vitte is innocent of any charges and denied all the allegations. 

But questions remain. The indictment is a step toward restoring faith in the county's institutions of criminal justice, but it's just a first step; a small step. We're not sure why Stierwalt changed his mind about charging Vitte and we still don't understand the reasons he gave in January when he dropped the investigation. 

In a report from the prosecutor's office, the time elapsed since the alleged incidents occurred and the lack of physical evidence were cited. But when questioned about the validity of that reasoning given potential witness statements, Stierwalt said his "main reason" was the Patrol officer could argue he was teaching the boy how to masturbate. 

That made no sense then and it makes no sense now. Stierwalt, we believe, still has some explaining to do. Refusing to address questions doesn't make them go away, or diminish their legitimacy. 

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