Three Times Union
articles about Ritter's Arrest
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FEDS OBTAIN RITTER RECORDS
CAROL DeMARE and ANNE MILLER Staff writers
Federal authorities have obtained the sealed records in the case of
former U.N. chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter for review in a possible
federal prosecution on Internet crime charges, sources said Friday.
"We have no comment," said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Pericak, supervisor of the white collar unit of the Albany office. Pericak and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Spina Jr., who has been prosecuting computer crime cases for years, sought the unsealing of the records, sources said.
While legal experts said it's not unusual for federal prosecutors to go after information contained in state criminal files, the decision to examine Ritter's case is certain to draw criticism from supporters who feel Ritter is being singled out because of his outspoken views against a possible war in Iraq.
The June 2001 arrest of Ritter, 41, came to light over the past week in various media reports. He was charged with a Class B misdemeanor, the least serious state crime on the books, for allegedly setting up a sexual rendezvous with a person who he thought was a 16-year-old girl.
Ritter was unaware that he was chatting over the Internet with an undercover Colonie investigator posing as a teenage girl. Police were waiting for Ritter when he showed up at a Burger King in Menands to meet the girl. The case was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, meaning the charges would be dropped and the records sealed if he didn't break the law for a six-month period.
The deal was negotiated between Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Preiser and defense attorney Norah Murphy and was approved by Colonie Town Justice Peter Crummey. Last week, Albany County District Attorney Paul Clyne fired Preiser. Clyne has refused to discuss the case other than to say his staff was told to inform him of all sensitive cases.
On Friday, Clyne was equally tight-lipped about the impending federal probe of Ritter.
"I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of that report, primarily because you're asking me questions about a case that all the parties have acknowledged is sealed," Clyne said. "I can't comment on another law enforcement agency's dealings with a sealed file."
Ritter finally broke his silence Wednesday after days of negative publicity about his arrest, including reports he had tried to meet with a 14-year-old girl two months earlier, in April 2001, and was given a warning by Colonie police.
When Ritter resigned his position as chief weapons inspector in September 1998, he criticized the U.N. Security Council and the Clinton administration for having stymied the program. He has since become a major opponent of President Bush's plans for war against Iraq. He has traveled the country and gone to Iraq speaking on behalf of peace.
On Tuesday night, Ritter canceled a trip to Iraq because of all the publicity surrounding his arrest. He was dismayed that the 2-year-old Colonie case was revealed but refused to discuss the particulars. He insisted the case was dismissed and the record technically expunged.
Even in cases where state charges have been disposed of, the federal government can decide to prosecute on similar charges provided they are covered under federal law. It would not be double jeopardy, federal and state officials said.
A section of the state Criminal Procedure Law dealing with sealed records allows a law enforcement agency to single-handedly, without notifying the defense, make a motion in a superior court to obtain the records if the agency "demonstrates to the satisfaction of the court that justice requires that such records be made available to it."
Now that federal prosecutors in Albany have possession of the records, they must obtain permission from the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington before they can bring a prosecution.
A possible federal case against Ritter could include the charge of using the Internet to entice a minor to engage in criminal activity, sources said.
Over the last week, former prosecutors have questioned the way the Ritter case was handled. Albany County's Clyne, while not discussing the Ritter case, said he would not approve of charges involving the luring of a teenager girl over the Internet to a sexual encounter to be disposed of as a low-level dismissal.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Kinsella, who retired last year as head of the Albany office's Criminal Division and is now an attorney in private practice, feels Ritter may have gotten off easy.
"He was allegedly involved in what otherwise
would be felony conduct, and it was charged as a Class B misdemeanor and
disposed of and there's no apparent good reason for it, given the seriousness
of the alleged conduct," Kinsella said.
ARREST WASN'T FIRST TIME POLICE HAD EYE ON RITTER
MIKE GOODWIN Staff writer
Caption: PHILIP KAMRASS/TIMES UNION THE DELMAR HOME of Scott Ritter, who was charged in an Internet sex case in 2001.
The Internet sex case that led to the arrest of a former U.N. weapons
inspector was not his first involvement with police on that type of crime,
a person familiar with the case said Monday.
Police began investigating the 41-year-old Ritter, who lives in Delmar, in April 2001 after he tried to meet someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl, the source said. Ritter drove to a Colonie business, where he instead was met by police officers, the source said.
Ritter, an outspoken critic of President Bush's plans for war against Iraq, was released without being charged while police investigated.
Two months later, the source said, Ritter was caught in the same type of Internet sex-sting operation after he tried to lure a 16-year-old girl to a Burger King in Menands. The supposed teenager actually was an undercover investigator posing online as a minor as part of the town Police Department's investigation of Internet sex crime, the source said.
Police charged Ritter with attempted endangerment of a child, a Class B misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in the county jail.
Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Preiser agreed to have the case adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, which means that charges would be dropped if Ritter stayed out of trouble for a period of time. A Colonie town justice sealed the case after the agreement between the prosecutor and defendant was reached.
Ritter was out of the country on Monday, according to his attorney, Norah Murphy, and his wife.
Ritter declined to be interviewed when asked Monday by e-mail whether he wanted to give his side of the story.
"Thanks for your e-mail," he wrote. "I have no comment on the issue you mentioned."
District Attorney Paul Clyne fired Preiser because she did not inform him about a "sensitive" case in Town Court, but Clyne would not acknowledge that the case involved Ritter.
Clyne's office was heavily criticized three months before Ritter's arrest after another assistant district attorney agreed to drop crack cocaine charges against a renowned Loudonville surgeon, Dr. Darroch Moores. In that case, the assistant district attorney also failed to inform the district attorney.
Moores took a leave of absence from St. Peter's Hospital and was allowed to keep his medical license and continue practicing as part of a probation agreement with the state Board for Professional Medical Conduct.
Defense attorney Michael Koenig said adjournment in contemplation of dismissal was not an unusual outcome for someone charged with a Class B misdemeanor, as Ritter was.
Ritter, a former Marine, led a weapons inspection team in Iraq in the 1990s after the Gulf War. He has gained international attention in recent months as a critic of a new U.S. war with Iraq. He has been interviewed frequently on radio and television shows, consistently downplaying the threat posed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Ritter's days as a leading voice of the opposition to war could be over if his arrest receives national media attention, said Robert Thompson, professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University. He said the nature of Ritter's arrest would overwhelm any point he might try to make on a talk show.
"When you're a talking head, your whole reason
for being has got to be the image of anything you represent," Thompson
said. "If the story starts getting to be a big issue, there will be talking
heads making their careers on the end of this talking head."
SCOTT RITTER CRIMINAL CASE COSTS PROSECUTOR HER JOB
Monday, January 20, 2003
Colonie The 2001 arrest of former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter
came to light late last week when an Albany County assistant district attorney
was fired over her handling of the case.
Ritter, of Delmar, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge after he allegedly had a sexual chat on the Internet with an undercover investigator posing as an underage girl, The Daily News reported Sunday, citing law enforcement sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A judge sealed the case after it was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal. Colonie police on Sunday declined to discuss the case, citing the sealing order.
Last week, District Attorney Paul Clyne fired Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Preiser for her handling of the case, saying Preiser failed to notify him about a "sensitive" case.
Clyne said he launched an internal inquiry into the matter after a reporter from The Daily Gazette of Schenectady asked about a case involving Ritter.
"Based on that inquiry, I determined that I should have been apprised of the existence of the case," Clyne told the Times Union. "I was not, so Cindy Preiser was fired for failure to keep me abreast of what was going on in Colonie court." Clyne declined to discuss Ritter's arrest.
No one answered the phone at Ritter's home on Sunday.
Ritter, a 41-year-old native of Gainesville, Fla., moved to the Capital Region two years ago with his wife and twin daughters.
Ritter once led a weapons inspection team in Iraq, but in recent months he's gained attention as an outspoken critic of a new U.S. war with Iraq. Ritter has aired his views on CNN, at news conferences and in numerous interviews.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Ritter, then a Marine, was sent to Saudi Arabia to help determine where Saddam Hussein was hiding Scud missiles. Ritter left the Marine Corps after the war and was hired by the U.N. to lead a weapons inspection team specializing in concealment.
At the time, Ritter said Iraq was "winning its bid to retain its prohibited weapons."
But Ritter seemingly has had a change of heart and now speaks out about a U.S. war against Iraq. He claims inspections could keep Hussein in check.
In a move that led many to label him a traitor,
Ritter on Sept. 8 became the first American to speak to the Iraq National
Assembly. He told the Middle East nation that it needed to allow weapons
inspectors to return.
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