An Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper who allegedly showed porn and masturbated with a 12-year-old boy was fired Thursday.
The termination of Patrol Sgt. Ricky Vitte Jr. is a reversal of the Patrol's stand after the allegations initially surfaced late last year.
Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt also did an about face earlier this month when he decided to present evidence to a grand jury and indicted Vitte on a charge of disseminating harmful material to a juvenile.
Prior to that, in January, Stierwalt dropped the investigation and said he did not intend to seek charges against Vitte. Stierwalt said at that time his main reason for not seeking charges was because Vitte could argue he was teaching the boy to masturbate.
That decision caused a firestorm of criticism from across the country after the Register first reported it Jan. 22, including suggestions Vitte was receiving specail consideration from Stierwalt because of his position as a law enforcemnt officer.
Sandusky County sheriff's Capt. Sean O'Connell, who investigated the allegations but never interviewed Vitte, wrote in a report that Vitte's sexual encounters with the boy happened out of concern for the child.
"Rick's reasoning is the fact that he did not want (the boy) to feel pressured on feeling the need to have to have sex with someone, when he can fix those needs by masturbating to porn," O'Connell wrote after an interview with the boy's mother.
The Patrol returned Vitte, who was assigned to the Toledo Post, to full service duty after Stierwalt made his decision in January. A Patrol spokeswoman at that time initially stated the Patrol would conduct an internal investigation of the circumstances surrounding the allegations, but she later stated there was nothing the Patrol could do because Stierwalt had declined to press charges.
The Register attempted to get clarification from the Patrol, and later sought information from John Born, the director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, about the Patrol's personnel practices. Born is an appointee of Gov. John Kasich, and his agency oversees the Patrol.
Born refused requests for an interview and did not respond to inquiries from the Register. His spokesman, Joseph Andrews, did respond, however, and reiterated that the Patrol was unable to take any disciplinary action against Vitte because of Stierwalt's earlier decision against filing charges.
Dean Henry, a Tiffin attorney who works as a special prosecutor for Stierwalt's office, also represents Vitte as his defense attorney. He told the Register in December that Vitte denied all of the allegations against him and was completely innocent.
Henry also represented Vitte in 2003 when he was accused of beating a chid and the child's mother. Vitte was charged with domestice violence in that incident but later entered a guilty plea to a reduced charge of child endagerment. He was reinstated to full service by the Patrol immediately after the plea arrangement at that time.
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Note: This article has been modified to reflect the Register confirmed Vitte's termination and remove the alternative source provided previously.