Underage sex trial of former U.N. weapons inspector opens

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 12, 2011 3:21 PM

By Dave Warner

STROUDSBURG, PA (Reuters) - A jury in the underage sex trial of an 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 photo 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 the case 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 of 2009. The text was explicit, and Ritter's twin 18-year-old daughters 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 that Ritter was simply role-playing and fantasizing, and there is nothing illegal about adults doing that.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)