Schenectady County

Former weapons inspector Ritter to be sentenced in online sex sting

Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter faces prison time this morning in a Pennsylvania court wh

Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter faces prison time this morning in a Pennsylvania court where he was convicted earlier this year in an online sex sting.

The sentencing for Ritter is expected to go ahead despite a ruling last week in New York that found prosecutors in Pennsylvania should not have been given access to records from a similar case involving Ritter in Colonie.

Pennsylvania prosecutor Michael Rakaczewski said this week that he would argue that ruling shouldn’t affect the verdict. The defense attorneys referenced the Colonie case themselves, he noted, and Ritter even testified to portions of it on the stand.

A jury in Monroe County, Pa., found Ritter guilty of six of seven counts against him in April.

The 49-year-old Delmar resident was convicted of exchanging explicit messages with someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl in an online chat room and then performing a lewd act on himself in front of a webcam. In fact, the girl was an undercover detective, but prosecutors said Ritter continued to exchange explicit messages and masturbated even after the “girl” stressed that she was a minor.

Proceedings are to start at 9 this morning in Stroudsburg, Pa. There is expected to be a hearing to determine Ritter’s sex offender risk level. Also, the defense will have an opportunity to make a motion to ask for a new trial and present character witnesses, Rakaczewski said. Ritter will also have a chance to make a statement.

In the end, barring a ruling in favor of any defense motion for a new trial, Ritter will be sentenced.

He faces up to seven years in state prison on the most serious conviction, Rakaczewski said. But the prosecutor noted Pennsylvania also has sentencing guidelines that the judge will take into account.

In last week’s New York ruling, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court ruled that the Pennsylvania prosecutors should not have had access to Ritter’s 2001 arrest on similar soliciting charges.

Ritter was charged in 2001 in Colonie with trying to arrange a meeting with an underage girl via the Internet. The charge was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal and sealed.

But in January 2003, The Daily Gazette revealed the arrest. Ritter blamed the Gazette article for effectively silencing him during the leadup to the Iraq war.

Ritter, born William Scott Ritter Jr., served as a U.N. weapons inspector from 1991-98 before resigning. He became a harsh critic of the Bush administration’s push toward war with Iraq.

The Pennsylvania prosecutor successfully asked an Albany County court to unseal the 2001 records so they could be used in Ritter’s new case.

The appeals court found that the Ritter case did not fall into the exceptions to the sealing order and found that the records should not have been released. Ritter is identified in the filing only by his given first name “William” and a last initial “T.”

Regardless of the ruling, Rakaczewski said it was the prosecution’s position that it would not affect the conviction in the Pennsylvania case or the subsequent sentencing.

An attorney for Ritter could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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