Anti-war hero Scott Ritter set for trial after child 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 that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, was in court 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 in Pennsylvania 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 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 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.