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

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS and speech... Mr. Jackson and Mr. Westerhold and the SR just learned another element of the First Amendment.
The press may publish whatever it wishes.
The Prosecutor and OHP, when asked repeatedly, are NOT required to tell the media if/when/why or why not action will be taken. They also don't have to reveal how long their investigations have been ongoing.
But I'm sure the SR will be proud of the newspaper's accomplishment in bringing Vitte to trial - if it gets that far.

xtensionofme

Agree with "AnAmerican:" It's about time!! Can't believe this man still works in law enforcement!

candleburner

I haven't read all the comments here but I have a few issues with this guy and I'm sure there with be issues with my comments as well.

Why was this guy still allowed to be a SHP after his first offense of DV? I understand that it was just his first offense however even the charge that he eventually plead down to should have been enough to get him kicked off the force - at least in my opinion anyway. I do understand that police officers are not perfect however they should have standards set just slightly above the rest of us. We look to them - or at least we should - as how to act and behave. Then to have him on administrative leave - that just makes me plain nuts!! They put him on paid vacation - paid for by the parents of the kids he's taking advantage of too, which is just sick on more levels than I can think of!!! This guy needs to be beat with a stick!!

queenjhb

I'm sure this child is stronger than he knows, he can testify, he can move on knowing he did all he could do for justice, he is believed and he is supported.

ContraryAnn

Have you ever been 'this child'?
Have you ever been the parent of 'this child'?
Have YOU personally as child or adult been in any situation similar to 'this child'?

My only hope is that someone is getting counseling for 'this child'.
Well, I have one more hope - that someone is getting 'this child' his own attorney/advocate to protect his interests and not let him be exploited.

worddrow811

Bottom line is no law enforcement official should be allowed to arrest civilians for the very same acts that the law enforcement officer has committed in his/her private life. Even the appearance of a double standard should be cause to terminate.

ContraryAnn

Bottom Line. Virtually from the moment this young man came forward most recently, all reporting, comments, diatribes, character attacks on Vitte, attacks on Stierwalt et al have focused on law enforcement or lack thereof.

And everytime the stories are written or comments made "this child" is before the public with the repetition ad nauseum of the alleged acts - with no true regard for his feelings and difficulties.
Not once has anyone written about services available to abused/neglected children. Not once has anyone asked if his mother is complicit - even now - in the ongoing stress over five years or so.
Did she go to Children Services immediately? Did she seek counseling for him, for the family, for any siblings? Did she get Vitte out of the house as soon as she knew? We haven't read about any of those things - and the parent is the FIRST line of defense.
Each time a story/comment appears, the man (too old now for juvenile services like CASA or Children's Services) is victimized all over. Is it making him stronger to read about the 'act'?
So it's wrong for Henry to be on the case. Isn't that up to the judge to decide/act upon? Babo says we should have confidence in the Court... *insert snicker*. Is ANYONE providing Victim Assistance?
'We' just wanna get Stierwalt, Henry, the OHP and all those other people 'we' don't like in this and other cases. Even Vitte is a 'tool' to get the others.
And the SR gives it all credence.
It's no longer necessary on each article to revisit the alleged crime against a vulnerable child.

Blue.Streaker

I assume most of the SR's readers are from Erie County, population roughly 75,000. Sandusky County has about 60,000. Smaller, but still in the same category.

The Erie County Prosecutor has eleven assistants who are lawyers and a staff of seven, FOUR of whom are part of the Victim Assistance Unit. see http://www.eriecounty.oh.gov/dep...

The Sandusky County Prosecutor has a staff of three lawyers, one part-time investigator, and two clerical.

They handle roughly a similar case load.

Just saying.

(....and NO, I'm not any part of Sandusky County government, but I know how to research.)

Babo

Sounds like Erie County is over staffed with attorneys and Sandusky needs to increase its victim assistance staff.

Julie R.

Erie County sure is overstaffed with attorneys. They're overstaffed with judges and magistrates, too, not to mention they're still paying these arrogant old rent-a-judges to fix their cases on the taxpayer dime.

blueyedgrl1030

I find it totally uncomprehensable that a OSP officer can actually have a child endangering charge on his record and keep his job, yet in the state of Ohio certain licenses (ie in the medical field etc)can be suspended and or totally revoked for the same criminal conviction. If one does some research it can be found that medical and nursing boards are comprised of ones peers in the same professions, as is the Ohio Peace Officer Training Council (whom is responsible for setting the minimum applicant standards for becoming a cop in the state). The main DIFFERENCE is what each of those peers is willing to put up with and or turn a blind eye to in each respective "profession". One would think that holding moral integrity to its highest standards for LE is not a crazy notion, but if one is to refer back to the difference in standards in the above mentioned professions (and what is acceptable regarding criminal convictions to maintain that job) its not hard to understand where the term "good ole boy club" came from regarding LE. I wouldnt want a nurse to be taking care of my child, knowing they had been convicted of child endangering just as much as I wouldnt want a judge or police officer charging me or convicting me for a DUI knowing they themselves encountered the same criminal conviction. Of course the difference of encountering "said" nurse is slim to none vs encountering LE that has the same convictions because of what ea professions peers is willing to work beside. For people that believe this is a grave "injustice" they are SPOT ON, the unfortunate problem is that the prevalence of all the convictions LE IS able to have and probably do statistically is probably mind blowing and Mr. Vitte is just one of hundreds all over the state with the same kind of conviction on their record. Regarding Blue Streaks comments, he too is almost "spot on", as he is simply stating the obvious of what a good defense attorney could and possibly will do. I'm in no way agreeing with him, rather simply being realistic because whether one wants to admit it or not that is how our justice system works. One could only hope that TRUE moral integrity could and should be a precondition of some of these professions vs inflated egos and high earnings and why some people choose to go into these professions. Truly makes one wonder how some of these people can honestly lay their heads on a pillow at night and sleep peacefully but of course when they have moral turpitude as a standard that allows them to continue in that profession in the first place seems to answer that silly notion.

Cowboy

Super Troopers sequel in the making!

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