MIDDLEBURY — A 21-year-old man living in Waltham pleaded not guilty on Monday in Addison County court to two charges of trying to sexually exploit a 15-year-old boy and sending explicit photos to the boy via a cell phone.
Robert Ritchey, a former Potsdam, N.Y., resident who had been renting a room in a Waltham home, faces up to five years and a fine of $10,000 on the first charge of sexual exploitation/luring a child, and another year and a $1,000 fine for sending indecent material to a minor.
Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster said the next step in Ritchey’s case would be a status conference now set for April 22.
Northlands Job Corps officials confirmed on Wednesday that Ritchey had attended the Vergennes center, but said privacy laws prevented them from commenting on whether he had been terminated from the federal job-training program.
According to the affidavit filed on Monday by Vermont State Police Trooper Christopher Campbell, he first learned of the case when contacted by the father of the alleged 15-year-old victim on March 7.
The father alleged that his son and Ritchey, the affidavit said, “had been exchanging sexually explicit text messages, to include photos of their genitalia” and messages that “contained sexually explicit conversations and discussions of plans to meet and engage in sexual activity.” The father also told Campbell that he had informed Ritchey on March 5 that his son was 15.
Campbell then interviewed the alleged victim on March 8 and received the father’s permission to take the cell phone, which was registered to and paid for by the father. According to the affidavit, the alleged victim told Campbell that the teen had also “made it clear to Ritchey from the very beginning that he was only 15 years old.”
Later on March 8 Campbell met with Ritchey at his rented room and arrested him after a brief interview during which, according to the affidavit, Campbell confiscated Ritchey’s cell phone and “Ritchey also admitted that he had still been communicating with (the alleged victim) as recently as the previous night, even though he was aware that he is only 15 years old.”