Old arrest could silence Iraq arms expert

ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter confirmed media reports on Wednesday that he had appeared in an Albany, N.Y. court concerning an arrest in an Internet sex sting.

Ritter said he had been scheduled to be in Baghdad, Iraq to advise the Iraqis on how to avert war but instead he stayed in Albany talking about his old arrest.


"The case was dismissed. Therefore, it never happened," Ritter told WNYT-TV. "I stood in a court of law, before a judge and an assistant district attorney with my wife at my side, and they dismissed it. I am deeply saddened. Not by anything I've done, though."

Media reports earlier this week about Ritter's arrest in June 2001 have drowned out his comments about a possible war with Iraq.

Ritter told WTEN-TV that all the media attention stinks and that the individual who had leaked the arrest was far more guilty than he was. He added that he had a lot of credibility and was the leading voice of opposition to a possible war with Iraq -- but that he didn't know if the reports of the arrest would mean he would be silenced.


The arrest occurred in June 2001 in the Albany suburb of Colonie, after Ritter allegedly arranged to meet with someone he thought was a 16-year-old girl he'd met in an Internet chat room. The person was actually an undercover police officer.

Ritter was arrested for attempted child endangerment, a class B misdemeanor, but his attorney and a Colonie Court judge agreed "to adjourn the matter in contemplation of a dismissal," according to the Schenectady Gazette.

Generally, if there are no further allegations against the defendant for the next six months, the case is dismissed and the record sealed. According to WTEN-TV, Ritter underwent court-ordered sex offender counseling from an Albany psychologist.

Although the court records are sealed, WNYT-TV reported that in 2001, the television station had reported that a 39-year-old William Ritter of Delmar had been arrested on charges he attempted to lure an underage girl he met on the Internet to a fast-food restaurant.

Ritter, a 41-year-old native of Gainesville, Fla., whose full name is William Scott Ritter Jr., has lived in the Albany suburb of Delmar with his wife and their twin daughters for two years. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Gulf War. After the war, he left the Marines and became a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998.


The Colonie arrest was under the name William Ritter. Norah Murphy, Ritter's attorney, confirmed her client was arrested in June 2001, but refused further comment.

According to a report in the Albany Times Union, the June 2001 arrest was not William Ritter's first brush with the law. In April 2001, William Ritter attempted to meet someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl he met online but who in reality was an undercover police officer posing as an underage minor.

He was met at the meeting place by police officers but released without being charged.

During the administration of former President Bill Clinton, Ritter was an outspoken critic because "Iraq was winning its bid to retain its prohibited weapons."

A CNN report in 1998 said that Iraqi officials blocked Ritter's team from conducting searches of possible Iraqi weapons sites, claiming he was a spy for the CIA, a charge the United Nations and the United States denied.

At the time, the U.N. Security Council approved a statement "deploring" the Iraqi move to block Ritter's team and Clinton said Iraqi officials would not be allowed to decide the make-up of inspection teams.

Ritter resigned from the United Nations in 1998 because he felt that "Iraq remained insufficiently disarmed and ready to restart its nuclear and biological weapons programs."


The 6-foot, 4-inch former Marine subsequently changed his view on Iraq and has become a regular on network and cable news programs criticizing President George W. Bush and calling for his impeachment for putting members of the American military in a war he considers "illegal and based on a foundation of lies."

He says that Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons program must either accounted for or destroyed.

Ritter explained his reasons for his change of heart in the documentary "In Shifting Sands," which he wrote and directed. A wealthy Iraqi-American businessman, Shakir al Khafaji, reportedly contributed $400,000 towards the 91-minute account of the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq, known as UNSCOM.

The former inspector also spoke before the Iraq National Assembly last September urging Iraq to allow weapons inspectors to return.

Ritter called the U.N. weapons inspector's recent discovery of empty warheads in Iraq "an accounting problem" and an indication that the weapons inspectors were doing their job.

"Iraq should take a more proactive action and send military officers to every ammunition depot and open up every box to ensure this never again happens and give a full accounting," Ritter said on CNN last Friday.

However, Ritter has said that if the inspectors find evidence that Iraq is attempting to procure or manufacture or has manufactured and is hiding an active chemical agent, "Then we have a right to presume ill intent on the part of Saddam Hussein and hold them to account."


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