Former U.N. Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter: Timing of Arrest Reports Suspicious

Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, a harsh critic of the Bush administration's push toward war with Iraq, suggested that recent news reports of his arrest in an Internet sex sting in 2001 were part of an attempt to silence him.

He said the publicity forced him to cancel a trip to Baghdad, where he said he would have offered an alternative to military action.

"The timing does stink. I was supposed to be on an airplane yesterday to Baghdad," he said. "Let's not forget, we're on the verge of a major conflict in which thousands of American lives may be lost, and I was a leading voice of opposition to this."

"It's a shame that somebody would bring up this old matter, this dismissed matter, and seek to silence me at this time," he said.

Ritter acknowledged his June 2001 arrest in appearances on television on Wednesday night but said he was prohibited from discussing details because the charges were dismissed and the records sealed.

Broadcast reports at the time and recent newspaper reports have indicated he was caught in an Internet sex sting, something Ritter did not admit.

At the time of the arrest, NBC station WNYT-TV of Albany reported that William Scott Ritter Jr. -- Ritter's full name -- was charged with trying to lure a 16-year-old girl to a restaurant. The girl turned out to be an undercover police officer.

WNYT broadcast Ritter's mug shot provided by the police but did not make the connection to his role as the chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq during most of the 1990s.

He was charged with attempted endangerment of a child, a misdemeanor that carries up to 90 days in jail, according to The Times Union of Albany. The case was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, meaning if he stayed out of trouble for six months, the charges would disappear and the file be sealed.

"When you dismiss the case and you seal the files, ... it maintains the presumption of innocence," Ritter, 41, said in a Court TV interview Wednesday. "So I'm sticking to my ethical and legal obligations not to discuss this case. I wish other people had done that."

When the story initially surfaced Saturday in The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, Ritter told a reporter, "Sorry, you must have the wrong person."

Calls to Ritter's home from The Associated Press went unanswered this week.