Ex-UN inspector gets prison in Pa. sex case

/ Source: The Associated Press

former United Nations weapons inspector convicted in an online sex sting has been sentenced to up to 5 1/2 years behind bars.

Scott Ritter, 50, of Delmar, N.Y., exchanged explicit messages with a detective posing as a 15-year-old girl, then performed a sex act on himself in front of a webcam.

He testified in his own defense that he believed the person he met in a Yahoo chat room in 2009 was an adult acting out her own fantasy.

But a northeastern Pennsylvania jury convicted Ritter in April. On Wednesday, a Monroe County judge sentenced him to 18 months to 66 months in state prison.

Ritter was taken into custody immediately.

Ritter was one of the U.N.'s chief weapons inspectors in Iraq from 1991 to 1998.

Ritter had asked for a new trial Wednesday, basing his request on an appeals court ruling in New York that records from two previous incidents in that state in 2001 should not have been unsealed and given to prosecutors in Pennsylvania to be used at his trial. Defense attorney Gary Kohlman argued the New York ruling entitled Ritter to a new trial because prosecutors based much of their strategy on the argument that Ritter had a history of illicit online sex.

"It became, as I feared, the tail that was wagging the dog at trial," Kohlman said in court.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski argued the New York ruling had no bearing on Ritter's conviction and sentence in Pennsylvania.

Monroe County Judge Jennifer Sibum rejected the defense request for a new trial, saying Kohlman could bring up the New York case on appeal, and ordered Ritter's sentencing hearing to begin.

Paula Brust, a member of the Pennsylvania's Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, testified for the prosecution that based on Ritter's history, he is at risk to offend again.

"He is not able to manage his offending in the community despite sex offender treatment," she said.

Kohlman indicated he plans to call his own expert who will testify that Ritter is doing well in treatment and presents a low risk of re-offending.

Ritter was one of the U.N.'s chief weapons inspectors in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He resigned after accusing the United States and the U.N. of failing to get tough with Saddam Hussein. Later, he said Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction, and he became a vocal critic of the U.S. invasion.

In 2001, Ritter twice arranged to meet people who claimed online to be underage girls but who turned out to be undercover police in Colonie, N.Y. The charges were eventually dismissed and the case was sealed, but Pennsylvania prosecutors obtained the records and used them to try to show Ritter has a predilection for underage girls.

Ritter told jurors he knew he was chatting with undercover police and set up the meetings so he would be arrested. Kohlman has said Ritter used sexually explicit chats on the Internet as a way to handle his depression over being called unpatriotic for his criticism of American policy on Iraq.