Scott Ritter: Trial begins for anti-war hero shamed by sex sting

Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector who strived to put the brakes on the 2003 invasion of Iraq by loudly disputing claims by Washington and London that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, was in court in Pennsylvania last night on charges of soliciting sex with a minor over the internet.

The trial, barring a last-minute plea bargain, was expected to get under way in a Stroudsburg court with jury selection later this week. It stems from his arrest in November 2009 for allegedly soliciting a girl calling herself Emily – and showing acts of masturbation via live streaming video – in an internet chat room. Emily was in fact a male vice officer.

The case is the third in which Mr Ritter has been accused of trying to solicit sex with a minor, in what he claims is a smear campaign against him because of his opposition to the war.

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania alleged that in April 2009, Mr Ritter had an 80-minute, typed conversation with the vice officer identifying himself as 15-year-old Emily. They contend that after turning on his webcam to show himself masturbating, Mr Ritter turned it off again saying he did not want to get into trouble but later turned it on again. Finally the officer, identified as Ryan Venneman in the criminal complaint, revealed his real identity.

"You know ur in a lot of trouble don't u," Mr Venneman typed in the Yahoo chatroom message. "Im a under cover police officer u need to call me asap." Ritter allegedly responded: "Nah. Your not 15. Yahoo is for 18 and over. Its all fantasy. No crime... As far as I know, you're a 56 year old housewife."

Mr Ritter's history of legal tangles stretches back to early 2003 when supposedly sealed police reports of two sex-sting arrests in 2001 were leaked to the press. He hinted at the time that the leaks were part of the campaign to discredit him after he publicly attacked the decision to go to war.

The leaked papers showed Mr Ritter was caught by police in April 2001 and then in June of the same year after contacting and then trying to meet with underage girls in upstate New York where he lives. He received a warning the first time. The second time he was charged with a misdemeanour but a county prosecutor agreed to have the records sealed on condition he stayed out of trouble for six months.

At the time newspapers got hold of those reports, federal prosecutors were seeking to have them unsealed to consider building a case against Mr Ritter, an effort that was later dropped. All this swirled around Mr Ritter, a hero of the anti-war movement, in the weeks before the invasion.

"The timing does stink – I was supposed to be on an airplane yesterday to Baghdad," he told Fox News at the time. "It's a shame that somebody would bring up this old matter, this dismissed matter, and seek to silence me at this time." Mr Ritter, who served in the US Marines in the first Gulf War, had by then spoken to the US Congress and the Iraqi parliament against an invasion.

The defence team in the latest case has asserted Mr Ritter's innocence, and tried to have the case dismissed. His lawyers cited improper conduct by the prosecutor in the case, Michael Rakaczewski, for seeking and eventually obtaining under a court order the same sealed documents pertaining to the 2001 incidents to bolster his case.

Mr Rakaczewksi says the sealed reports are relevant. "The prior bad acts demonstrate the defendant's motive," he said. "The defendant may claim he did not believe the victim was a minor and never intended to expose himself to a minor. However, the fact that he did so twice before would negate this defence. All three involve minors, all three involve females, all three involve communications over the internet, all three involved undercover police and all three involved the defendant's desire to masturbate in the presence of a minor while she watched him."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific