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Vitte in court

Courtney Astolfi • May 6, 2014 at 8:10 AM

The former Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper accused of masturbating with a boy and showing him porn pleaded not guilty Monday at his first court appearance.

Ricky Vitte Jr., 34, of Helena, attended his arraignment hearing in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court on a felony charge and a misdemeanor charge of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He was flanked at the hearing by his attorney, Dean Henry, as well as a few family members.

After Vitte pleaded not guilty to both counts, Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt asked that the former trooper be released on his own recognizance, citing his appearance at the arraignment as an indication he would appear at the next hearing.

A condition of that bond, however, requires Vitte to completely avoid contact with the victim, who is now 18 years old.

As part of the proceedings, Judge Barbara Ansted ran through a laundry list of activities Vitte cannot engage in, given his pending charges.

One of those — a rule barring him from possessing a firearm — prompted Ansted to mention Vitte’s former Highway Patrol job.

“You don’t need (one) for your job anymore?” Ansted asked.

Vitte replied with a succinct “no.”

After the hearing, Henry and Stierwalt hashed out the next hearing date and Vitte was briefly booked into the Sandusky County jail on his indictment.

His arraignment came after nearly four months of conflicting information from Sandusky County officials, Highway Patrol administrators and Ohio Director of Public Safety Jon Born’s office.

In November, Sandusky County deputies learned Vitte allegedly showed porn to a boy and masturbated with him on two occasions when the boy was still a preteen.

Stierwalt at first declined to charge Vitte because the former trooper could argue he was teaching the child about sex. Stierwalt presented the case in April to a grand jury, which handed down an indictment.  

The Patrol then fired Vitte for conduct unbecoming of an officer. 

During the Patrol’s investigation of the allegations, Stierwalt said he consulted with a Lucas County prosecutor, who agreed with Stierwalt’s initial decision not to press charges. In a recent public records request by the Register, however, Lucas County officials said they had no record of Stierwalt contacting their office.  

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