March 8, 2011 / 6:52 PM / 9 years ago

Underage sex trial of former U.N. weapons official set

STROUDSBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A trial date was set on Tuesday in the underage sex case against Scott Ritter, the controversial former chief United Nations weapons inspector.

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter of the U.S. talks to a journalist during a conference entitled "Iraq, the aftermath - prospects for peace and security" at the University of Westminster in central London, March 13, 2004. REUTERS/David Bebber

Neither Ritter, 49, nor his lawyer was present in Monroe County Common Pleas Court when Judge Ronald Vican set April 12 for the start of the trial.

The date had been previously agreed upon by all parties, according to Assistant District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski.

Ritter was chief weapons inspector for the United Nations from 1991 until his resignation in 1998, and later became a critic of the Bush Administration’s push to war in Iraq.

Now living in the Albany, New York, suburb of Delmar, Ritter was charged in 2009 with unlawful conduct with a minor following an internet sex sting conducted by local police in Barrett Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania.

According to a police affidavit, Det. Ryan Venneman was conducting an undercover investigation into internet exploitation of children on February 7, 2009, when he posed as a 15-year-old girl named Emily in an online chatroom. A chat partner identified as “delmar4fun” joined in and provided a link to his web camera.

“The conversation was sexual in nature,” the detective wrote in the sworn statement.

The initial focus of the camera was on the man’s face but soon it was adjusted to his groin area as he began to masturbate, the officer said.

At one point in the conversation, the man expressed concern that his chat partner was only 15 years old and turned off his web camera, saying “he did not want to get in trouble,” the affidavit said. However, when the detective, posing as “Emily,” observed the camera was turned off, he turned it back on.

Still in the persona of “Emily,” the detective asked for a phone number so they could speak.

Ritter allegedly provided a cell phone number, and when the detective called and identified himself as a police officer, Ritter identified himself as the man born William Scott Ritter, Jr., and gave his location, the affidavit said.

Authorities said a similar Internet sex sting operation in 2001 resulted in criminal charges against Ritter, which were later dismissed.

Ritter was accused of using the internet to try to lure a 16-year-old girl — actually an undercover police officer — to a Burger King in another Albany suburb, Menands, New York.

Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton

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