Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter is finally admitting he was arrested a year and half ago by police in upstate New York, but refuses to disclose if it had anything to do with looking to meet underage girls from the Internet.
Scott Ritter on CNN ‘Newsnight’
Ritter made an appearance tonight on “CNN Newsnight with Aaron Brown,” but was evasive on questions dealing with reports he was caught in a police sex-sting operation.
“I was arrested in June 2001, charged with a Class B misdemeanor,” said Ritter. “I stood before a judge and the case was dismissed. The file was sealed. And I certainly wish you and everyone else would respect that.”
Citing legal counsel, Ritter stressed he was not going to reveal details, but questioned the timing of the revelations as he canceled his trip to Iraq due to this “distraction.”
“And we should never forget that when a case is dismissed,” said Ritter, “what the law says is that – by dismissing the case – it brings with it the presumption of innocence. And by sealing the file, it’s designed to prevent the stigma attached with any unsubstantiated allegations from arising. So, as far as I’m concerned, as far as everyone should be concerned, this is a dead issue.”
Brown responded by saying it wasn’t a dead issue, as the case is starting to get more national publicity. He also challenged Ritter on the issue of the “sealing.”
“Scott, we spent a fair amount of time today looking at New York law on this,” said Brown. “There is nothing in a sealed case, zero, that prevents you from talking about it. The point of the seal is to protect you from the state, not to protect the state from you.”
Ritter continued to elude specifics, stating the media had “turned this into a feeding frenzy.”
“You are radioactive until this is cleared up,” said Brown. “Until people understand what this is about, no one is going to talk to you about the things that you feel passionately about. And as uncomfortable as it may be, I submit to you that it is in your interests to explain what happened. Otherwise, Lord only knows what people will say.”
“Well, Aaron, Lord only knows what people are already saying,” responded Ritter. “And, frankly speaking, I have no control over that.”
The CNN interview featured a series of non-committal answers, as evinced by this exchange between Ritter and the host:
- BROWN: Did you ever go into an Internet chat room looking for teenage girls to have a sexual encounter of any sort with? How about that?
RITTER: Aaron, again, I have to respectfully reply by noting that I am obligated legally not to discuss matters pertaining to a
BROWN: Can you tell me, under what provision of what law are you referring to?
RITTER: Well, Aaron, you know I’m not a lawyer. And I have sought legal counsel on this. And I’m strictly abiding by legal counsel.
BROWN: So, I can dance around this a thousand ways and you’re not going to tell me why you were arrested at that Burger King on that day in June. Is that right?
RITTER: Aaron, I will respond the same way, this way, until Sunday. I was arrested in June 2001, charged with a Class B misdemeanor. I stood before a judge and the case was dismissed. The file was sealed. And I certainly wish you and everyone else would respect that.
BROWN: OK. Again, I’m not going to beat my head against the wall. If you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t want to talk about it.
Let’s talk about the ramifications of it. It is my view, and, certainly I think as far as this program is concerned, and I think others, that you are, in a sense, radioactive, that these charges, I would submit, until they’re responded to, will keep it that way.
But, in any case, in this moment, for the moment, nobody cares what you think about Iraq. You think that’s why this stuff was leaked?
RITTER: Well, I have no way of knowing why this happened. But the effect is obvious. I was supposed to be on an airplane yesterday flying to Baghdad on a personal initiative that could have had great ramifications in regards to issues of war and peace.
I wish people would keep the eye on the ball here. It’s about war and peace. It’s about the potential of conflict with Iraq, many thousands of Americans dying. And whether you agreed with me or disagreed with me on the issue, there’s no doubting – and you can’t rewrite history – I was a very effective voice in the anti-war effort in the campaign to keep inspectors on the ground.
BROWN: What is stopping you from going to Baghdad?
RITTER: Well, look, what’s stopping me is the reason why I’m sitting here before you, Aaron.
If I went to Baghdad and tried to talk responsibly about issues of war and peace, this issue would have come up. And it would have been a distraction and it would have actually been a disservice. There are people in Baghdad right now pursuing the initiative that I started. And I want to give them every chance of success. I don’t want to provide any distractions.
BROWN: Well, one way or another, I hope all this stuff gets cleared up and you can get back to talking about the issues you care about. But, again, I’m not quite sure how that’s going to happen.
Last September, Ritter became the first American to address the Iraqi National Assembly. He then urged Baghdad to allow weapons inspectors back into Iraq, something to which Saddam agreed shortly after Ritter’s departure.
But Ritter started making headlines of a different sort this week after newspaper and television reports from his hometown region of Albany, N.Y., indicated he was arrested in 2001 for trying to meet underage girls in part of a police sex-sting operation.
The Schenectady Daily Gazette and New York Daily News originally reported Ritter allegedly had an online sexual discussion with someone he thought was an underage girl. The “girl,” however, turned out to be an undercover police investigator, according to the Daily News, whose sources spoke on condition of anonymity.
WTEN-TV, the ABC affiliate in Albany, reported that Ritter contacted the “teen-age girl” twice in the spring of 2001, and that he has since undergone court-ordered sex-offender counseling from a psychologist in New York’s capital.
Sources also told the Albany Times Union that Ritter had two run-ins with police.
The first occurred in April 2001, as he reportedly drove to a Colonie business to meet what he thought was a 14-year-old girl with whom he had chatted online. Instead, he reportedly was met by officers, who released him without a charge.
Ritter allegedly tried to lure underage girl to this Burger King parking lot (WNYT-TV)
Two months later, the source told the paper, Ritter was caught in the same kind of sex sting after he tried to lure a 16-year-old girl to an area Burger King restaurant.
An attorney for Ritter confirmed that the ex-inspector, who says President Bush should be impeached for his Iraq policy, was arrested a year and a half ago.
Norah Murphy said Ritter was arrested in the upstate New York town of Colonie in June 2001, but she would not respond to allegations that he was charged with soliciting an underage girl on the Internet. Ritter lives in the Albany suburb of Delmar.
Scott Ritter mug shot (courtesy WNYT-TV)
Though Ritter originally told the Daily Gazette the paper had him mistaken for someone else, the local NBC television affiliate WNYT produced video of a mug shot of Ritter after the arrest.
“If it’s not him, it’s either his clone or a twin,” the station’s news director, Paul Conti, told WorldNetDaily.
Conti said the 16-year-old girl had been lured by Ritter to meet him at the Burger King in Menands, N.Y., in order “to have her watch him have sex with himself.”
Police reportedly charged Ritter with attempted endangerment of a child, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in the county jail.
Sources said Ritter’s attorney and a town court judge agreed to adjourn the matter in contemplation of a dismissal.
That generally means the case is on hold for six months, and if the defendant doesn’t get into trouble, the case is usually dismissed and the record sealed. The adjournment means neither an admission of guilt or innocence.
Though network news coverage of the case has been scant, Ritter has been mentioned on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, heard on over 600 stations.
“If I were Scott Ritter, I would just come up with a ‘Hey, I was just doing research here.’ … The Pete Townshend reply,” joked Limbaugh.
“You know we’ve all wondered,” he added, “why it is that Scott Ritter has done a 180 on what he originally saw as a weapons inspector and then the last couple years, it’s like ‘Nah, the Iraqis don’t even have the capability to make a thumbtack, much less a chemical weapon.'”
Ritter is still planning to give discussions about the crisis with Iraq here in America.
He’s slated to be at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., on Jan. 30 for a free discussion which is open to the public.
He’s also scheduled to give a free speech Feb. 12 at Schenectady County Community College in New York. There are no plans to cancel Ritter’s appearance, for which he’ll be paid $4,000, SCCC spokesperson Heather Meaney told the Times Union.
“We researched him and decided to have him here in February,” she said.
As WorldNetDaily reported Saturday, Ritter is calling for the ouster of President Bush for what he feels are unnecessary and murderous actions in the conflict with Iraq.
“I would be in favor of the impeachment of President Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors,” Ritter told WND. “Murder is a high crime and misdemeanor, and I can’t think of any better definition than murder when he talks about American service members and putting them in a war which is not only illegal but is based on a foundation of lies.”
“When you go to war you open up a Pandora’s box, the results of which cannot be predicted,” he said via telephone as he drove from his upstate New York home to appear on Fox News. “Therefore, there better be a darned good reason to go to war. It’s got to be worth the sacrifice that you’re asking others to make.”