Grand jury indicts Vitte

Ohio Patrol officer denies he showed pornography to a boy and masturbated with him
Courtney Astolfi
Apr 10, 2014

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.

Comments

ContraryAnn

I disagree that cops should be held to a higher standard...or a lower standard.
I believe in equality before the law.
There are a lot of people who drive fancy cars and carry sidearms.
If the young man is even called, he will face harsh scrutiny. The mother may not be able to offer anything but disallowable hearsay testimony unless she witnessed the act.
And no, I'm not condoning the alleged act, merely speaking from a victim's experience.

DickTracey

You are absolutely, positively wrong, ANN!

The mother can testify that the son became withdrawn after the incident, or had behavior problems, or nightmares. She can also testify that she witnessed him shy away from Ricky, or acted out against Ricky. She can testify that he became, moody and his grades suddenly declined.

The boys change in behavior after he was molested, and manipulated is definately pertinent to corroborate his testimony.

"The boy will face harsh scrutiny" I don't know if you hope he reads this and are trying to intimidate him, or if you are just absolutely ruthless! Either way, you are hoping for further punishment to a victim that needs love and approval, not your rudeness!

I hope you do not have children.

Blue.Streaker

Mom could testify to these things only if the State is going to produce an expert to say they are symptoms of a relevant conclusion. Do you know for a fact that the boy's behavior changed in these ways, or are you speculating?

Babo

Note the factual history states that the victim and his mother spoke with reported the matter to Children's Services who are experts in the investigation of child sexual abuse. Thus, there should not be any e any problem with corroborating testimony.

Blue.Streaker

Not so fast.

Experts in child sex abuse hold MD or PhD degrees. The investigators at Children's Services are investigators, gathering facts. They generally are experienced, but they are not experts who are qualified to give an admisible opinion in these matters. Sorry.

Babo

No, you're wrong. Child abuse investigators may testify just like police officers to their experience in these investigations.

Why are you such an advocate of making it difficult for sexual abuse victims to seek justice?

Blue.Streaker

You are partly correct, but not close enough to make it work here. There have been Ohio cases in which Children's Services investigators have been found adequately experienced and educated to qualify as an expert in child sex abuse cases. The Boston case cleared up a lot of that.

However, in this case the following would happen:

1) The mom, siblings, friends, teachers, etc., would be ready to testify. Defense counsel would object, asking what is the relevance of their testimony. Prosecutor would say it is foundational testimony to support an expert opinion that these symptoms are indicative of the bad act alleged. Judge would inquire as to who the expert is (and defense would object at not being discovered expert opinion.) Unless case worker can convince judge that she has the necessary expertise in interpreting causal relationships to behavior, the foundation witnesses are not relevant. Objection sustained.

2) The solution is to have an expert who can put the foundational testimony together and express a meaningful opinion. They are available in the psych wards of children's hospitals.

3) I'm not an advocate of making it difficult for sexual abuse victims to seek justice. But I've been exposed to many, many of these cases and I've seen what has worked and what has not.

DickTracey

Blue.Streaker, aka Negative.Nancy, No, the state does not need to produce an expert. You have no idea what you are saying, and your comments prove that.

The mother can simple testify to how her son was so outgoing, extroverted and happy before the incident. And then she describes his temperament after a grown man made him get naked, watch porn and play with himself. She could also bring grade cards, detention slips, notes from teachers or journal entries, to back up her own testimony.

As a matter of fact, his siblings could testify to his change in behavior and so could a teacher or coach. The more the merrier.

There is no need to have an expert back up the mothers description of her sons behavior.

Blue.Streaker

Dick: Why do you want the prosecution to do a half-assed job of presenting its case? I don't know (do you?) whether all this testimony (mom, grade cards, teachers, siblings, coaches) is available. But if it is, why not present someone who has invested their career working with young people who have experienced way-too-early sexual exposure? You have an opportunity to tie it all together , and you would prefer to let the pieces lie there, unconnected? Remember that in closing, the prosecutor cannot argue that these unconnected items add up to a certain outcome unless it is in evidence.

I'm not being negative. If the state has this kind of evidence I want them to use it effectively. Don't you?

Blue.Streaker

I asked whether you have independent knowledge about these behavioral changes for a reason. Assuming these behavioral changes actually occurred they should be used. However, if there were no significant behavioral changes, would you allow that fact as evidence that nothing actually happened? Remember, you can't have it both ways.

Babo

The points and arguments you raise could be made about every case. We could speculate for days about how a trial may be presented. So why are you so concerned about this particular case and making Vitte's arguments for him?

ContraryAnn

Been there Dick? Obviously not. Changes in behavior can relate to many causes from bullying, to breakup of parents, to a demanding teacher,.. and when did the concerned mother seek counseling for her troubled son? Did school counselors note changes and talk with the boy and/or suggest/provide further counseling?
Testify to his changes in behavior? He was a hormonal boy facing all kinds of challenges.
Nobody here is advocating for the alleged abuser.
Many of us are TRULY advocating for this young man and making sure he doesn't get victimized by the system and 'lost' in the sharkfest trying to get the officer.
Some of us have empathy, having 'been there'

ContraryAnn

Ya know Dick, some of us speak from personal experience.
She can testify to all those things. And a good defense attorney will ask questions about other things and persons in the boy's life - and why it took her (or the young man) six years to report it. Not necessarily fair, I agree, but that's what a defense attorney is for.
The son became withdrawn after the incident (ONLY that incident?)..or had behavior problems or nightmares. If she knew about the incident, why was Ricky even around for the teen to "shy away from" or "act out against"? Defense: was she complicit by allowing Ricky to remain around the boy?
"the boy's change in behavior after he was molested and manipulated" is not in the information presented... they masturbated together, but each other? And, again, why didn't she take action immediately to find out what was part of the 'changes'?
I AM NOT DEFENDING the cop. But IF there is not a conviction - or a misdemeanor that lets him keep his job - what long-term effect will it have on the young man?
I could lay it out for you but I'm just not willing to share.
Unless you've walked this particular highway, you should just shut up!

Babo

Your comments are confusing. You seem to suggest that it is futile for victims of sexual abuse to seek justice. Don't you think regardless of the outcome that it is best for the victim and society to at least try to seek justice? Should we not be able to rely that the Judge assigned this case will ensure fair administration of justice and not allow badgering of witnesses?

Instead of speculating on what a defense attorney may do to the victim on the stand, shouldn't we resolve to ensure that the victim feels empowered? For example, in the Toledo Blade's story on this topic (written by staff with no author) it is reported that Dean Henry represents Vitte. That is an unconscionable conflict of interest given his prior relationship representing Stierwalt and OConnell and this newspaper and readers could though the power of the press ensure he is disqualified from the case.

The Toledo Blade also failed to report the masturbation allegation (live porn show) of the Indictment. The matter disseminated does not have to be printed, video, or digital it can be live action. In other words the trauma of experiencing a grown man who is a police officer masturbating while watching pornography is the more serious aspect of the allegations.

I believe the young man will come out of this just fine if the community rallies to ensure he feels safe and free of retaliation. I will grant you that with Stierwalt's history and his friendship/attorney-client relationship with Henry there are reasons to believe that his office may not protect their own witness.

ContraryAnn

Futile? No. Incredibly difficult? YES!. "regardless of the outcome"? Are you real? How do you even say that it's best for the victim and society to at least try to seek justice?
So the boy becomes a sacrificial lamb to get this allegedly awful cop off the force? What effect will a Vitte conviction on a misdemeanor have in making this young man feel safer.
And why do you have any confidence the "community" will "rally"?
This boy merely is a tool to get Vitte.

Babo

So we and the young man should throw our hands up and surrender to abusers? That's what you appear to be suggesting. No we take back OUR justice system from abuser/bullies like Vitte and his attorney Henry.

My hope is that the now young man and his family are not about to let him become a sacrificial lamb and will sue (excuse the pun) the pants off of Vitte. I agree with you that he needs an advocate because I do not trust the prosecutor's office to protect him.

Also, not to come across as sexist but recognizing that men and women are hard wired differently; I do believe a young man will process this experience differently than a young woman.

ContraryAnn

"We and the young man..." Since when did you or 'we' become a part of this case? Is it because of your dislike of Vitte and Henry?

Are totally exclusively interested in justice for the young man?

What if this hadn't involved an OHP officer - Dean Henry?

...and perhaps you should be careful in drawing conclusions from screen names?

EVERYONE. examine your motives for your posting. Hardly any can post a comment without attacking Vitte, the OHP, LE, Dean Henry, Stierwalt, et al.

justice_forall2014

Again to the couple Vitte supporters, I urge you to obtain your own copy of the public records. Your statements and opinions are very informative and indicate you may be closer to this case than most others commenting. However, is seems your source of information may be leading you in the wrong direction. You have legal knowledge, good for you. Take that and use it to do a little research and become an informed commenter rather than just throwing out intimidation tactics used by bully defense attorneys. I only hope the victims in this situation remember why they started. Don't allow the ramblings of people who are afraid to present who they really are prevent you from being strong and do what is right. The devil wears many disguises!

ContraryAnn

"do what is right" for whom?

Justice for all is the primary goal? Or justice for the young man who already has had his life altered forever?

So. To j_f2014.... I suggest you do some serious research into the very complex subject of abuse, bullying, sexual abuse,

Truth or Dare

So because he is State Patrol and folks have read this in the paper there should be a change of venue? Was that sarcasm? If that's the case, it should work for every regular Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally whose name, face and charges are plastered within this, any newspaper!

Modern technology has made it possible too view all kinds of sick, perverted, PEDOPHILE LE individuals who've been prosecuted for sexual offenses. Makes one wonder how long they got away with it, who helped along the way and how many victims were left in their wake.

Fact: Trust, much like respect is a two way street. It's earned and not a given. That works for LE, our judicial system and the politics they're tied too as well. It's pretty clear all here are tainted.

Too the now young man who filed this report w/Erie County, STAND STRONG, and if no one else will, be your own ADVOCATE! Whether 7 or 17, God knows children that aren't permitted to speak for themselves, even persuaded not too, that have no rights need more of them. Advocates that is, because it's quite clear their rights are null and void.

reddog

My heart goes out to the victim. This would be a very difficult and personal thing to go through and the kid is under a microscope. It takes a lot of guts to do what he's doing and I admire him, whomever he is.

Please

Pundit, I think you missed Blues point. Sitting on a jury you get to hear all the facts, not just one side or an opinion. We have only heard one side and are ready to hang someone. If he is guilty.....sick!! But if someone blindly accused you of something you just did not do, wouldn't you want your day in court. This happens all the time, there is a divorce, spouse gets mad, and starts telling their children bad things about spouse. Usually not to this extent, but it does happen. Just saying if someone said you did something that you didn't and it ended up in the paper, you wouldwant your day in court to defend yourself. Again if he did these things.......good luck when you get to the pearly gates!

Peninsula Pundit

A cursory review of my past posts in the Register clearly indicate that I am a very strong advocate for the rights of the accused.
This same review will also show that when the case against the accused is sound (i.e. an admission of wrongdoing by the accused), justice should be swiftly served.
The sad thing about the whole situation in this region is that the judicial and enforcement sections are some of the worst offenders against the laws and ethics they swore to uphold.

Babo

The article states and quotes the following:

"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."

Vitte has already been indicted by a grand jury and there is a pending criminal case. Why is it now necessary for OHP to waste additional tax dollars on an administrative investigation that should have been conducted months ago? Who is OHP to determine whether "allegations" actually criminal charges are "false" or "truthful" and "what really happened"? That sounds to me like a state agency using tax dollars to help an employee defend himself. That is highly inappropriate and IMO an illegal expenditure of public funds.

OHP should focus any investigation on its own failure to act and uphold the values of the Patrol when the allegations were first brought to light rather than to continue what appears to be an effort to interfere with a pending criminal case.

Blue.Streaker

I agree with this comment (except for calling the expenditure "illegal.")

Of all LE in Ohio the OSP fancies itself the most stainless and professional. Most OSP troopers are very good, but there are enough smug arrogant jerks to sully the rest of them.

Babo

Thanks for the concurrence. Here's the law that applies to use of public funds for improper personal reasons. The following is an excerpt from the State Auditor's report on former Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton's misuse of Furtherance of Justice funds. He faces sentencing in US District Court in May 2014 after pleading guilty to theft of federal funds.
Furthermore, State ex rel. McClure v. Hagerman (1951), 155 Ohio St. 320, provides that expenditures
made by a governmental unit should serve a public purpose. Typically the determination of what
constitutes a “proper public purpose” rests with the judgment of the governmental entity, unless such
determination is arbitrary or unreasonable. Auditor of State Bulletin 2003-005 states that governmental
entities may not make expenditures of public monies unless they are for a valid public purpose. The
Bulletin indicates that the Auditor of State’s Office will only question expenditures where the legislative
determination of a public purpose is manifestly arbitrary and incorrect. In addition, all expenditures
should be evidenced by some form of documentation attesting to the nature of the purchase. Without
proper documentation, it is difficult to ensure public monies are being spent for public purposes.

My argument is that an administrative investigation AFTER an employee has been indicted is an improper expenditure of OHP public funds and is for an improper purpose because it appears to aid the Employee's defense in a criminal action.

Blue.Streaker

Nope.

An agency must have discretion as to when to investigate its people. Also, the union contract probably requires there be an ongoing investigation to support a suspension.

Babo

Fair enough, but it is inappropriate for OHP to claim it is trying to ferret out truth and falsity and what really happened when a criminal case is pending.

I think it's pretty standard in all public contracts and jobs that an indictment will result in a the immediate suspension of a public employee. They don't need to do an investigation to justify cause to suspend as the criminal justice system has found probable cause he committed a crime.

ContraryAnn

If OHP wants to terminate the officer - or even justify unpaid leave - the agency will need sufficient evidence (short of a felony conviction) to take action.
I thought I read in some story that a misdemeanor conviction would allow the officer to keep his job?

Truth2u

Right on target Babo,

Notice the State Patrol KNEW of this creeps acts and did nothing until there was a grand jury. I thought they were law ENFORCEMENT?

I consider the State Patrol as the WORSE law enforcement agency in the State, this action of delaying until now is 100% political to be able to claim they started their 'own' investigation.
RUBBISH, its all about image with them, case in point is when they are involved in an accident, you'll find they put the car on a trailer and have it completely covered so no body sees it. Pure BS like everything else they do.

The only thing I'm surprised about is that Vitte didn't dress up like a Klansman when he did this, at least he would show he had some shame by covering his face!

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