Sex trial of former U.N. weapons inspector opens

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 12, 2011 6:51 PM
Sex trial of former U.N. weapons inspector opens

By Dave Warner

STROUDSBURG, PA (Reuters) - A jury in the underage sex trial of outspoken former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter on Tuesday watched a nude video of him sent over the Internet to a person he thought was a 15-year-old girl.

The person who received the video was not the girl but Detective Ryan Venneman of Barrett Township, one of the first witnesses to testify on opening day of the trial in Monroe County Common Pleas Court.

Ritter, 49, of Delmar, New York, a suburb of Albany, faces a maximum of seven years in prison if he's convicted.

Prosecutors said Ritter's online chat with 15-year-old "Emily" in February 2009 was actually the third such encounter since he quit his job as chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq in 1998 and became a vocal critic of the Bush administration's war in Iraq.

In 2001, Ritter was involved in two other similar sex sting cases, prosecutor Michael Rakaczewski said in his opening statement.

Defense attorney Gary Kohlman said Ritter was never charged in 2001 and that those cases had been sealed.

Kohlman also blamed Ritter's behavior in 2001 on his state of depression over resigning as chief U.N. weapons inspector.

As the trial got underway, Ritter sat stoically at the defense table while Detective Venneman read a transcript of the online chat in February 2009.

The text was explicit, and Ritter's twin 18-year-old daughters Victoria and Patricia sat through the reading.

Ritter's daughters left the courtroom before the prosecution played graphic video Ritter shot of himself with his web camera during the chat.

For nearly 30 minutes, the jury of seven women and five men, lawyers and Monroe County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Sibum watched silently as a large-screen TV showed images of Ritter masturbating, initially wearing a shirt, but eventually naked.

Kohlman noted that the online profile Venneman created for the chat listed Emily's age as 24. The prosecution transcript, meanwhile, notes "Emily" twice told Ritter she was 15 years old.

Kohlman told the jury Ritter was simply role-playing and fantasizing, and there is nothing illegal about adults doing that.

Mariana Ritter, his wife of 20 years, took the witness stand in the afternoon.

When she learned of the two incidents in 2001, she said: "I considered them to be the self-destructive acts of a man who was depressed."

Of those incidents, police officer Tom Breslin of Colonie, New York, testified that in April 2001, Ritter was arrested after an Internet chat with someone he thought was a minor but in fact was a police officer.

They arranged to meet at a McDonald's, where Ritter was met by police, Breslin testified.

A similar scenario occurred in June 2001, and they arranged to meet at a Burger King, he testified. The police office said Ritter was charged in the 2001 incidents, but it was unclear from his testimony how the cases were resolved.

In both cases, Ritter told the people he thought were underage girls that he wanted them to watch him masturbate, Breslin testified.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)