U.S. News

Ex-U.N. official Ritter convicted in underage Internet sex sting

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania jury on Thursday found former high-ranking United Nations official Scott Ritter guilty in an Internet underage sex sting.

Prosecutors accused Ritter, 49, of Delmar, New York, a suburb of Albany, of engaging in a lurid web chat with a person portrayed as a 15-year-old girl. That person was actually a detective for the Barrett Township Police Department in Pennsylvania.

Ritter was the chief weapons inspector in Iraq until he resigned in 1998 because he said he felt neither the Clinton administration nor the United Nations was pursuing Iraq weapons inspections vigorously enough. Later, in 2002, he had a falling out with the Bush administration over the war in Iraq.

The jury deliberated two days before finding Ritter guilty of six of the seven charges against him. One was a misdemeanor, indecent exposure, and the rest were felonies, including three charges of unlawful conduct with a minor, criminal attempt to corrupt a minor and criminal use of a communications device.

Each of the five felony charges carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. No sentencing date was set and Ritter remains free on $25,000 bail.

Assistant district attorney Michael Rakaczewski said Ritter was convicted “by his own actions and by his own words on the stand.”

At one point during the trial, the jury watched a graphic video recording of a nude Ritter performing a sexual act captured on his computer web camera for young “Emily.”

Posing as “Emily,” Detective Ryan Venneman twice gave her age as 15. The chat and video occurred in February of 2009.

Ritter testified at the trial and part of his defense was that he did not believe he was really talking to a 15-year-old, but instead an adult pretending to be a minor.

Ritter’s wife, who testified in his defense, and twin daughters, Victoria and Patricia, 18, attended the trial at Monroe County Common Pleas Court in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

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