Not your father's Highway Patrol

Matt Westerhold
Mar 3, 2014

The Ohio State Highway Patrol has some explaining to do, whether it wants to or not.

The director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, John Born, has been dodging questions for weeks about the Patrol's disciplinary practices after domestic violence, falsification and alleged sexual misconduct allegations were levied recently against three Patrol troopers in separate incidents.

The Patrol returned one of the troopers to full duty service immediately after local prosecutors opted against filing charges related to alleged sexual misconduct. The second trooper was demoted after he allegedly filed a false police report, and the third trooper remains on paid leave pending a trial related to the assault in which he was allegedly involved.

“If there's no charges, there's nothing we can do,” Joe Andrews, a spokesman for Born told the Register last month, referring to an investigation by the Sandusky County Sheriff's Office into allegations that Patrol Sgt. Ricky Vitte Jr. masturbated with a boy.

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Andrews talked with the Register for about 30 minutes Feb. 20, in a stilted conversation during which he carefully sidestepped direct answers to questions and kept repeating it wasn't the Patrol's responsibility to make sure the allegations of wrongdoing weren't true.

A second person with Andrews when he talked with the Register was coaching him on some of his answers, whispering instructions to Andrews how to respond. Andrews has refused to identify who that person was giving him instructions.

It might have been Born, and if it was, or wasn't, it's just plain strange someone would sit in on a conversation without identifying himself, or acknowledging his presence, especially a public servant who is providing responses to questions of a serious nature.

But the bottom line from Andrews, and the whisperer who was instructing him, is that as long as there aren't any criminal charges filed, the Patrol did not have to determine if Sgt. Vitte actually watched porn and masturbated with a pre-teen boy.

Born has refused to return phone calls from the Register or respond to requests for interviews, instead sending Andrews to respond to the questions raised after Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt said he would not file charges against Vitte.

Stierwalt said the main reason was because he didn't think he could get a conviction because Vitte could argue he was teaching the boy to masturbate.

The enormity of weirdness in Stierwalt's explanation takes some time to comprehend. It suggests that in Ohio — or in Sandusky County, Ohio, at least — it is somehow lawful for a man to have sexual encounters with a child as long as the man is teaching the child how to masturbate, in certain circumstances.

Vitte's attorney said in January that Vitte denies all of the allegations and he is completely innocent.

Stierwalt's office, however, doesn't appear to have cleared Vitte of the allegations, and the investigative report doesn't suggest there was any robust effort to clear him or even determine whether the boy and his mother are mistaken about what they said happened.

It either happened, or it didn't happen. Determining that, it seems, should have been the purpose of the criminal investigation, not finding a strange and questionable loophole that would justify the behavior and make it so Vitte wouldn't face any criminal charges.

Stierwalt has refused to expound on his explanation, clarify it, or refute it, and he seems to have decided the best approach is to simply ignore the questions his decision has raised. But in an about-face on Friday, Sandusky County assistant prosecutor Norman Solze, standing in for his boss, said the Vitte investigation isn't closed, after all.

“I don't think they've made a decision,” Solze told the Register, in an oblique response to the many unanswered questions Stierwalt continues to ignore. “There are still several things.”

Back in the day, allegations that one trooper beat a woman, another trooper had sexual encounters with a child and a third gave false information in a police investigation would be enough to trigger an intense review by the Patrol to determine whether those troopers were fit for duty.

That was then, however, and this is now.

Today's Patrol leadership seems to believe the way to respond to difficult personnel issues is to wait and see if charges are filed and then take action, all the while being unconcerned whether the alleged behavior actually occurred.

And, if a reporter actually has the temerity to ask about the allegations, the Patrol seems to have opted to simply ignore, obfuscate and avoid.

And whisper.

Comments

KURTje

Kudos S.R. Even though you deleted a statement about Ricky, I'm glad to see you keep the interest on public servants alive. You aren't alone. Hey Ricky...........never mind.

holysee

Move along please, nothing to see here!

Matt Westerhold

Yes, move along. 

justice_forall2014

So glad this is being covered so heavily. I bet if you look closer, you will find the Ohio Highway Patrol has a long list of individuals who have disgraced their uniform, but yet, remain as upstanding law enforcement. As you said in a previous article, they get shuffled around. While they are human and make mistakes, when you decide to take a position deserving of honor and respect, you better darn well live up to that or get out and let someone more capable have your spot!

DGMutley

Nobody's talking: Not the Patrol or the Governor. You can bettcha there is plenty of talking going on; we just aren't hearing it.

The Patrol can't have an Assistant Post Commander that is suspected of child molestation. How did the head butt and spanking ever get past them--that's a public record! This is shameful.

If the hierarchy doesn't take control of this situation it's liable to turn into another "Penn State Scandal".

justice_forall2014

Look up who his Staff Lt. was at the time of those incidents. Might be interesting information and answer a few questions everyone may have.

Truth2u

" Vitte could argue he was teaching the boy to masturbate."

Then release every pervert in prison who could use this argument!

IS this what we want or deserve to 'protect and serve' us? No checks and balances as with the Sheriff.

Kudos to the Register!

The governed

These topics need to be kept alive not only for both Sandusky county and state elections but it certainly needs to be a topic for Kasich and Fitzgerald, make them go on record.

Julie R.

People should be able to see by now how these unethical clowns work with their unlawful stonewalling and avoidance of questions. All public officials pull this stinking crap off. The ones here figure if they stonewall the SR long enough the SR will eventually give up. They can then sit back and laugh how they got away with sweeping yet another one under their filthy proverbial rug.

Stop It

One would think that rug would be getting real difficult to walk on. All those telling hills and mounds, right?

rbenn

I wrote and called the state AGs office and all you get from them is a canned response on how hes not gonna do anything about the situation in Sandusky county. Pretty sad I will say. If that would have been an average person he would be in jail already.

huronguy

Even a former Sandusky register editor was put in prison for child molesting! I'm surprised that was never mentioned in these comments before. Let's do a article about past and present sex offenders working at the register! Well then again atleast the registers perverts did some time for their crimes.

Babo

I;ve repeatedly cited the case of James Hofmann. He actually got a great deal at only three years as his crimes involved hideous acts on a 10 year old boy and an 8 year old girl. He also had a bunch of pornography that he used to groom the children. Baxter made sure his case didn't get referred to the Feds as it should have been and brought in a special prosecutor (Dean Holman) and retired Visiting Judge (Joe Cirigliano) that undercharged him and under sentenced him.

Matt Westerhold

You're not getting your facts straight Huronguy, and you likely would know nothing at all about that case that occurred more than 10 years ago involving a former Register publisher if the Register had not reported it.  So your statement is false, and dated.

queenjhb

Keep ignoring the questions, these folks don't deserve our attention , we are above the ,err, I mean we are the law. Yep, that's what we will do, it usually works, right?

huronguy

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

justice_forall2014

I may be wrong on this but I think that the reason for the heavy coverage has to do with the issues surrounding this situation. If the SR would not have forced this into the public eye, most likely it never would have been reinvestigated and would have been just another secret of the Ohio Highway Patrol. It is horrible what happens to children and they are helpless to defend themselves. We turn to law enforcement to help in these situations but in this case the one victumizing the child was law enforcement. I think that is another reason for the heavy coverage.

huronguy

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

wheresyourpride's picture
wheresyourpride

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

Julie R.

Geez, yet another case (according to Babo) that Erie County's favorite retired Lorain County rent-a-judge was involved in? How many does that make now?

I would love to get a ballpark figure of how much Cirigliano has made off of the Erie County taxpayers in the last 10-15 years. In fact, I would love to get a ballpark figure of how much all the rent-a-judges have made and are STILL making in this corrupt county. I would even love to get a ballpark figure of how much Baxter & Co.'s favorite Lorain County law firm of Stumphauzer & O'Toole ~ the former Baumgartner & O'Toole ~ have made. You can bet the amounts for the entire bunch, if ever known, would be staggering.