An Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper accused of masturbating with a pre-teen boy while the pair watched pornography was indicted this week by a Sandusky County grand jury, months after officials dropped the investigation and said they would notpursue charges.
Sgt. Ricky Vitte Jr., 34, of the 900 block of County Road 42 in Helena, was charged with disseminating matter harmful to juveniles — one felony count and one misdemeanor.
If convicted of the fourth-degree felony, he could serve six to 18 months in prison and pay a $5,000 fine. If convicted on the misdemeanor, he could see up to 180 days behind bars and a $1,000 fine.
The Highway Patrol placed Vitte on paid administrative leave Wednesday morning, after they learned of the indictment. They have also launched an administrative investigation into the alleged sex acts, said Sgt. Vincent Shirey, an assistant Patrol spokesman.
The goal of the investigation: “Just to do a thorough investigation on the allegations and see what’s true and what’s false and what exactly happened,” Shirey said.
Sandusky County assistant prosecutor Norman Solze offered few additional details on the decision to pursue charges, other than saying Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt was the prosecutor assigned to the case.
Solze added, however, that the decision to present the case to a grand jury was made collaboratively by employees in the prosecutor’s office, and not by Stierwalt himself.
The indictment comes after about three months of conflicting information presented by public officials associated with the case.
In January, Stierwalt said he declined to charge the trooper because Vitte could argue he was teaching the boy about sex. In a police report, however, Sandusky County detective Sean O’Connell said Stierwalt’s reasoning for not charging Vitte was due to the length of time that had elapsed since the alleged incident, and the lack of physical evidence.
Ohio State Highway Patrol employees had also offered murky answers about the overall case, as well as the Patrol’s stance on Vitte’s employment and the status of an administrative investigation.
In late February, Ohio Department of Public Safety spokesman Joseph Andrews said there was nothing the Patrol could do in Vitte’s case, unless charges were filed.
— RECENT ALLEGATIONS
Sandusky County deputies began investigating Vitte late last year, after the boy and his mother spoke to Erie County Job and Family Services.
On two occasions about five years ago, Vitte allegedly showed the child porn videos while he and the boy masturbated in the same room, the boy, now a teen, told social workers. When confronted with the allegations, Vitte told the boy’s mother he was teaching him about alternatives to sexual intercourse, according to O’Connell’s report.
A brief criminal investigation ensued, during which O’Connell never interviewed Vitte.
O’Connell did, however, go to Vitte’s home in an attempt to interview him, but when Vitte arrived in his Patrol cruiser and spotted the deputy’s cruiser parked outside, he sped off, the report said.
Vitte allegedly led O’Connell on a mile-long chase before pulling over and saying he needed to talk with his attorney, Dean Henry, the report said.
For his part, Henry has been working with O’Connell and Stierwalt for more than a year as a special prosecutor for the Sandusky County prosecutor’s office.
— RAP SHEET
This recent indictment is not Vitte’s first run-in with the law outside of his duties as a trooper.
In 2003 he was charged with domestic violence after he allegedly beat a 5-year-old boy until his buttocks were bruised and bleeding, then head-butted the boy’s mother when she became upset, according to a police report.
Henry successfully defended Vitte in that case, pleading down his domestic violence charge to a lesser charge of child endangering.
Word of Vitte’s violent tendencies resurfaced late last year when social workers spoke with his children. The children told investigators they saw their father punch holes in walls and doors during violent fits of rage. At other times, they watched Vitte drag their mother into another room by her arm and yell at her, the report stated.