Scott Ritter Convicted in Sex Sting with Officer Posing as Underaged Girl
Gather | April 15, 2011
Scott Ritter is convicted of one misdemeanor and five felonies as the result of a sex sting operation. An undercover police officer posing as a 15-year-old girl named Emily shared sexually explicit online messages with the 49-year-old former United Nations chief weapons inspector in Iraq. Later, Ritter sent the undercover officer a video of him masturbating in front of a web cam. Sentencing is scheduled for next month.
Scott Ritter claims he thought the person he was chatting with was an adult. Some people may not approve of adult chat rooms for the purpose of cyber sex. However, if you have two adults exchanging messages in a chat room, and there are no minors, no laws have been broken whether people approve of it or not.
Furthermore, Scott Ritter claims the whole messy situation is a smear campaign directed at him for being one of the most outspoken critics on the United State's role in the Middle East after he quits his job as chief weapons inspector for the UN in 1998.
In this case, the jury witnessed the transcripts of the chat, and they could see that Ritter was told by the undercover officer that "Emily" was 15. He had a choice to stop the communication, but he chose to continue. Can a person claim sabotage if the transcripts are right there for the jury to see?
More and more, sexual misconduct of various types has gotten people who have held positions of power in trouble. Said District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski on Scott Ritter, "Sometimes, the internal drive to engage in these types of deviant sexual behaviors is just too strong."
Also see: "Ex-U.N. official Ritter convicted in underage Internet sex sting" | Reuters
Former U.N. weapons inspector: I thought 'Emily' was adult playing a girl
Speaking clearly, confidently and looking directly at the jury, Scott Ritter testified Wednesday to believing he was having a sexual conversation with an adult, not a minor, in an online adults-only chat room in February 2009.
"It was never my intent to contact a minor," said the 49-year-old former United Nations chief weapons inspector in the second day of a trial for doing just that.
Ritter said that, when the person he was talking to claimed to be a 15-year-old girl named Emily, he believed it was an adult playing a fantasy role, which some people do in sexually themed adult chat rooms. Ritter said he believed this person's fantasy was being a minor who likes older men and decided to play along.
Ritter's own fantasy at the time was sending computer webcam images of himself masturbating to women online. He said he believed he was sending these images to a woman, not a 15-year-old girl, when he sent them to "Emily" on Feb. 7, 2009.
Ritter said that, when "Emily" finally identified herself as undercover Barrett Township Police Officer Ryan Venneman, he thought it was someone playing a prank.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski is trying to convince a jury that Ritter in fact believed "Emily" when she said she was 15 and intentionally continued talking to her because he wanted a minor.
Ritter said he felt the conversation "took a dark turn" when "Emily," who at that point had sent him photos she claimed were of her, told him her 26-year-old ex-boyfriend had taken pictures of "other girls her age" having sex with each other. Ritter said he has never viewed or downloaded child pornography and didn't want to start doing so at that point, so he asked "Emily" if she was 18.
When she said she was 15, Ritter replied: "Aha, I didn't know you were 15," continued the conversation and then sent webcam images of himself masturbating. Ritter called his "Aha" response "dismissive" and indicative of him not believing he was talking to an actual minor.
The conversation ended shortly after "Emily" revealed herself to be Venneman.
Ritter paused at one point, fighting tears, when testifying to the shame of having to tell his wife later that day what he had been up to online. He told her he believed the person he had been online with was playing a prank by claiming to be an undercover police officer.
"What really worried me was that this person had threatened to access my (Internet provider) address," Ritter said. "I didn't know who this person was or if they were going to try and come to my home and harm me or my family. That's why I told my wife what had happened."
Two 2001 incidents
To establish whether he intended to break the law in this case, testimony focused also on Ritter facing similar accusations in two 2001 incidents in Colonie, N.Y. The former U.S. Marine and 1991 Persian Gulf war veteran said his controversial 1998 resignation from his U.N. job drove him into a self-destructive depression.
"I was unemployed and no longer able to provide for my family as I had promised I would," he said. "My life was unraveling. I was withdrawn and irritable. It was a dark period for me. I began spending more time online, especially in adult chat rooms. I didn't have the courage to tell my wife about my depression and the things I was doing because of it, or to get help."
Ritter said he knew the teenage girls he met online in April and June 2001 were undercover police posing as minors, but pretended he believed they were actual minors. He told these "minors" he wanted to drive to meet them somewhere in person so he could masturbate in front of them in a vehicle.
He agreed to meet the minors at locations they chose.
"I wanted the police to arrest me because I felt it was the only way I could finally get the help I needed," he said, again pausing to fight tears.
In April 2001, police met Ritter in a McDonald's parking lot, the location undercover officers had chosen.
After searching his car and later his computer and finding no child pornography or sexual paraphernalia, police did not arrest Ritter, but told him they would the next time he contacted a minor online and then drove somewhere to meet that minor.
"It was a wake-up call, a splash of water in the face, telling me I needed to address my problems," Ritter said. "I tried to do this on my own, without help, but couldn't."
In June 2001, he again found himself in a chat room, meeting another "minor" who chose a Burger King parking lot as a meeting location.
Ritter told the girl he wanted to talk to her by phone first "to make sure I'm not being set up."
When asked in court why he requested this if he knew the girl was really an undercover officer, Ritter paused and then said he was just trying to initiate the meeting.
Ritter went to the Burger King and drove by twice before finally pulling into the parking lot.
"When he pulled in and saw us, he tried to drive away, but we stopped him," Thomas Breslin, a Colonie police detective lieutenant at the time, testified Tuesday.
Ritter said he told police about his depression when they arrested him and that they told him to get help. Police dismissed charges when Ritter got professional help.
When asked why he returned to a chat room in February 2009 after what had happened in 2001, Ritter said he again was depressed, but less severely.
The defense rested Wednesday and closing arguments will take place at 9 a.m. today.