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Asst. prosecutor: Case not closed

Sandusky Register Staff • Mar 1, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt may be looking for a redo on his decision to decline filing charges against a Highway Patrol sergeant who allegedly masturbated twice with a pre-teen boy while they watched porn videos together.

“I don’t think they’ve made a decision yet. There are still several things,” assistant Sandusky County prosecutor Norman Solze told the Register on Friday, referring to the prosecutor’s office.

Click HERE for past Trooper's Sex Lesson stories

In January, Stierwalt released a report of an investigation conducted by Sandusky County sheriff’s detective Sean O’Connell, in response to a public records request, and said he did not intend to pursue charges against Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Ricky Vitte Jr.

O’Connell, who never interviewed Vitte during his investigation, wrote in the report the prosecutor’s office opted to close the investigation without filing charges, citing the time that elapsed since the alleged sexual encounters occurred and the lack of physical evidence.

When Stierwalt was asked about the decision, however, he told the Register those weren’t his primary reasons.

His main reason, Stierwalt said, was because he feared he might not be able to convict Vitte.

Vitte could argue he was teaching the boy to masturbate, Stierwalt said. Since then, Stierwalt has refused to clarify or expand on that explanation, and he has not returned phone calls or replied to emails seeking additional information. He has also refused to meet with a Register reporter.    

On Friday, Solze, standing in for his boss, said the complaint against Vitte is still being reviewed by Stierwalt’s office. The complaint was made in November. When asked why Stierwalt said previously the investigation was closed, Solze offered a limited response.

“As far as I know, we haven’t come to a complete conclusion on this case,” he said, declining to offer any details as to what might be under review now that was not reviewed previously.

Vitte was in a Highway Patrol cruiser when O’Connell, who was in a sheriff’s cruiser, attempted to stop him to question him about the allegations. Vitte sped off, triggering a short chase in which the overhead lights on O’Connell’s cruiser were fully engaged. Stierwalt never considered any charges related to the chase.

Dean Henry, a Tiffin attorney who also works for Stierwalt, was Vitte’s defense attorney in 2003, after the trooper was charged with domestic violence for allegedly beating a child and the child’s mother. He was convicted later after the assault charges were reduced to a single count of child endangerment in a plea agreement with prosecutors. Vitte was then immediately returned to full service as a Patrol trooper.

Henry told the Register in January he is representing Vitte again in relation to the latest allegations.

Henry said he teleconferenced with Stierwalt prior to Stierwalt’s decision against pursuing charges and discussed possible defense strategies with him. He also told the Register Vitte has denied the allegations and is completely innocent.

Henry did not respond Friday when asked if he wanted to comment.

Vitte was immediately reinstated to full service in January, after Stierwalt’s office finished the investigation.

The Patrol opted against any disciplinary action against Vitte because he was not charged after the local investigation was finished.

Ohio Department of Public Safety director John Born has refused to respond to questions about the Patrol’s disciplinary practices, and a spokesman told the Register the Patrol was unconcerned about the short chase Vitte led using a Patrol cruiser.

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