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UPDATE: Bates doesn't have Stierwalt's back

Register • May 3, 2014 at 5:19 PM

Stierwalt told Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. K.E. Ward in February that he sent the Lucas County prosecutor’s office a request for a “second opinion” on whether Patrol Sgt. Ricky Vitte should be charged with a crime after allegations surfaced last year he showed porn to a 12-year-old boy and masturbated with him on two occasions. 

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Original post, 12:01 p.m. May 1, 2014

Headline: Bates has Stierwalt's back, Lucas County prosecutor's office says Vitte should not have been charged

Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt had it right the first time.

Ohio Patrol Sgt. Ricky Vitte Jr. should not have been charged, according to the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, after allegations surfaced he showed pornography to a boy and masturbated with him.

Stierwalt sent the video Vitte allegedly showed the boy to the sex crimes unit in Prosecutor Julia Bates' office in February and asked for a "second opinion" whether he should seek a charge of disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile.

The unit "recommended that no charges be filed against Vitte," according to an internal report from the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Bates did not respond to inquiries from the Register. 

William Miller, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor assigned to the special prosecutions unit did not reply to an email from the Register or to telephone messages left for him.

The prosecutor's office also has not yet provided public records related to Stierwalt's request for a review. 

Stierwalt told the Patrol investigators he decided to leave it up to the alleged victim, who is now 18, despite the recommendation from Lucas County that no charges be filed. Stierwalt said he gave the victim a week to "render a decision" whether he wanted him to take the evidence to a grand jury.

The victim, who was 12 when the alleged incidents occurred, told Stierwalt he had concerns for other children and about Vitte's violent temper, according to reports, and he wanted to go forward. Vitte was indicted April 2 on two charges of disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile.

The Patrol fired Vitte three weeks later, at the conclusion of its investigation, for acts "unbecoming" an officer and for making the Patrol look bad.

The termination is an about face. In January, the Patrol did not plan to take any action concerning the boy's complaint, returning his service weapon and restoring Vitte to full-duty when Stierwalt dropped the local investigation. 

Read Vitte fired

At that time, Stierwalt said he did not think Vitte could be convicted because he could argue a defense he was teaching the boy how to masturbate.

Dean Henry, a Tiffin defense attorney who also works as a special prosecutor in Stierwalt's office, told the Register in January that Vitte denied all the allegations and is completely innocent. Henry represented Vitte in a past incident when Vitte was charged with domestic violence.

Henry also said he was representing Vitte this time and that he'd talked with Stierwalt about the investigation before Stierwalt closed it down.

In the months since Stierwalt refused to expand or clarify his reasoning for not moving forward after saying his main purpose for dropping it was Vitte might have been teaching the boy about sex.

He did make comments, however, in a phone call an unknown person made to him on Jan. 23.

"You're not pressing charges, right?" the caller impersonating Vitte asks Stierwalt.

"Didn't seem like there was an appropriate charge, that's right," Stierwalt replies, in the recorded conversation widely distributed on the Internet. Their conversation suggests Vitte and Stierwalt might be familiar and friendly with each other.

Stierwalt believed the caller was Vitte, and the two commiserated about the fallout after the Register first reported the allegations in January. Stierwalt said he'd gotten fierce feedback from the community criticizing his decision.

"I've been called a FOB, son of a b(deleted), mother(deleted)ing mother(deleted)er," Stierwalt said. "I get emails and I get voicemails for that kind of stuff. I'm a little tired of it, too." 

Hello, Tom? Is that you? (recorded call includes objectionable language)

Stierwalt did expand on his earlier comments when he talked with the Patrol investigator in February, including telling him he found the victim to be credible. He did not offer any information, however, about what other charges might have been considered and the investigator did not appear to ask.

Bates and Miller also both refused to comment on whether the Lucas County sex crimes unit reviewed information about the alleged sexual interaction between Vitte and the boy, and whether the two encounters might constitute some other violation of the law.

Stierwalt told the Patrol investigator there was "no touching in the masturbation incident" between Vitte and the boy. 

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