STROUDSBURG, Pa. - A detective posing as an underage girl in an online chat room told a former UN weapons inspector he was exchanging sexually graphic messages with a 15-year-old, according to testimony Tuesday in the second online sex-sting case involving the former Marine captain.
Barrett Township police Detective Ryan Venneman testified that Iraq war critic Scott Ritter initiated a sexually explicit conversation with him in a Yahoo chat room in February 2009.
Venneman told the court that Ritter gave him his cell phone number and began a sexual act on a video chat. Ritter briefly ended the chat after the detective said he was 15, but soon restarted the video chat and the sexual act, the detective testified.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Gary Kohlman told the jury that Ritter is a "decorated military hero" who didn’t believe he was chatting with an underage girl.
“There will not be a shred of evidence that Mr. Ritter in his entire life ever has had an inappropriate conversation with a minor," Kohlman said.
"There is not a shred of evidence that he has ever had or looked at child pornography. . . . Ritter at no stage in his chat with Officer Venneman ever once believed that he was doing anything other than speaking and chatting with an adult," Kohlman said.
According to Venneman’s testimony, Ritter called the exchange a "fantasy" after the detective identified himself as an undercover officer.
Ritter, 49, of Delmar, N.Y., was a UN’s chief weapons inspector in Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War. He accused the United States and
UN of failing to take action when Iraq blocked inspectors from suspected weapons sites and later became an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, insisting the country had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction.
Ritter is charged with unlawful contact with a minor and other counts in the Pennsylvania case.
A decade ago, Ritter was charged in New York with trying to set up a meeting with an undercover police officer posing as a 16-year-old girl.
Those charges were later dropped, and Ritter said in 2003 that he believed the case was designed to silence his war criticism.
Ritter is expected to testify in his own defense.