Charges could follow jail admin's resignation

Former Grand Traverse County Jail Administrator Todd Ritter resigned in the spring of 2019 after reports allege he engaged in inappropriate conduct with inmates during his tenure.

LANSING — Former Grand Traverse County Jail Administrator Todd Ritter has been arrested by Michigan State Police troopers following a state Attorney General’s investigation.

Ritter, 48 of Lake Ann, will be arraigned Friday in 86th District Court in front of Magistrate Tammi Rodgers on felony and misdemeanor charges, said Ryan Javi, AG spokesperson.

Ritter was arrested at his home Thursday without incident and lodged in the Leelanau County Jail, Jarvi said.

Charges include second-degree criminal sexual conduct, embezzlement, larceny from a building, misconduct while in public office, all felonies and willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor, Jarvi said.

“The laws of this state and country do not offer special exemptions for those in positions of power,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press release. “It is my duty to enforce our laws and hold accountable anyone who fails to comply with those rules, regardless of the authority provided to them by their job title.”

The embezzlement charges stem from use of a county credit card, the larceny charges stem from theft of drug test kits and the willful neglect of duty charges state Ritter neglected to make sound financial decisions while running the jail, according to a felony arrest warrant obtained by the Record-Eagle.

As a public officer, Ritter, “did, willfully neglect his duty to make sound financial decisions related to inmate boarding at the Grand Traverse County Jail a duty enjoined on him by MCL 801.55 by keeping inmate June Doe as a boarder at the Grand Traverse County Jail on trustee status after the expiration of her jail sentence, while at the same time sending Grand Traverse County inmates out to Benzie and Leelanau Counties as boarders at the expense to Grand Traverse County of $9,300.00,” the warrant states.

Ritter had a 20-plus-year history with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department when he was forced to resign April 11, 2019, after an internal investigation found lewd text messages and explicit photographs of former and current inmates on his department-issued cellphone and laptop, the Record-Eagle previously reported.

Other accusations levied against Ritter include claiming expense reimbursement for a hotel room he shared with a former inmate in Lansing during a work trip, signing onto a corrections department computer and saving a profile as “Big Tex” on a single mothers dating website and smoking marijuana.

The sheriff’s department and the Michigan State Police investigated, and Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg petitioned the Michigan Attorney General’s office in March, after her office had the case for more than eight months, records show.

“The AG has made a decision and we have the start of a legal resolution,” Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley said Thursday.

“I think we did the right thing in a timely manner,” Bensley added, of the department’s handling of the investigation.

Moeggenberg’s petition to the AG for a special prosecutor was to preclude any appearance of bias, she said previously.

In May, the AG’s office said it would begin an in-house review, rather than assign the case to a county prosecutor.

“I’m glad he’s finally going to be held accountable,” Moeggenberg said Thursday.

The in-house AG review was conducted by Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark.

In 2019, Hagaman-Clark prosecuted William Strampel, former dean of Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, on misconduct and sexual assault charges, as well as his mis-handling of complaints against former MSU sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar.

Strampel was acquitted on a felony charge of second degree criminal sexual conduct and found guilty of misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.

He was sentenced to one year in jail.

In a related case, Hagaman-Clark also prosecuted former MSU gymnastics coach Kathy Klages for lying to police when she said she had no memory of gymnasts complaining about Nassar.

Klages was found guilty and sentenced to 90 days in jail and 18 months probation.

The Ritter case was reviewed by the AG’s Public Integrity Unit, within the office’s new Criminal Trials and Appeals Division, authorized to review police-involved fatal shootings and other law enforcement misconduct cases.

Contained in the Ritter investigative file sent to the AG’s office to review are reports showing Ritter often delivered morning coffee and afternoon lunch orders to a former inmate while on duty and in uniform, records show.

Ritter brought another past inmate on a “work-related” trip to Lansing in August 2017, expensing their $192 dollar room to the taxpayer-funded sheriff’s department, the Record-Eagle previously reported.

Ritter also was accused of meeting with a former inmate in the county governmental center’s basement, where the couple retreated to a closet for some “intimate touching” while he was on the clock, documents show.

Janis Adams, a Traverse City labor attorney assigned by Sheriff Tom Bensley to investigate, said in her 2019 report the sheriff’s department had not received any complaints from female inmates, current or former, about Ritter.

“It bears noting that I found Capt. Ritter’s conduct to be extremely egregious,” Adams wrote. “He used his position as the Captain and Jail Administrator to intimidate and exploit the vulnerable female inmate population at the Grand Traverse Jail, the very individuals he was charged to protect.”

In 2019, Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Steve Arendt of the Cadillac Post, investigated the allegations at the request of Moeggenberg.

Arendt said earlier this month he’d interviewed 60 people and that the full results of his investigation, contained in a “huge” three-ring binder, was forwarded to the AG’s office.

The full Michigan State Police investigative file has not been made public, as the case is ongoing Arendt said.

“I appreciate the citizen’s patience with this investigation,” Arendt said Thursday. “It involved a lot of interviews and things we do that are this in depth take time.”

Jarvi said he was not aware of whether Ritter had legal representation.

Hagaman-Clark will be the prosecutor of record at Friday’s remote online arraignment, Jarvi said.

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