NEW YORK (PIX11)—A 25-year old New York City woman "friended" a notorious sex offender on Facebook, mistaking him for a high school friend.
It turns out the woman's boyfriend had tipped off NYPD cops about 33-year old Jeffrey Ritter last June, after seeing Ritter on "surveillance" footage, at the scene of a sex attack on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The victim was an 85-year old woman. Mike D, who works in Brooklyn and identified Ritter on the footage, told PIX 11 he thinks Ritter or one of his associates "Googled" him and found his Facebook page. That's where Mike D's girlfriend was discovered on the FB "Wall".
"I basically have been sick, mentally and physically, for the last five days because of this," the young woman told PIX 11. "I had to go to the emergency room and get IV's to calm me down. I felt like my throat was closing in, I couldn't talk, they had to give me medication to open my throat up." The woman is a single mom who's going for a Master's degree and doesn't want to be identified. "I don't even know this person," she said. "Mike told me, 'That's the rapist! That's the rapist! I said 'That's the rapist? Oh my God! He might want to kill me!'" The woman continued, "I just feel this terror, and it's taken me a few days to just try to calm myself down." She "unfriended" Ritter almost immediately.
Jeffrey Ritter had a long criminal history in seven states when he was busted last June, accused in the Memorial Day assault on the elderly woman. The surveillance showed him dragging the victim off a sidewalk. He's charged with forcing her to perform oral sex near a stoop on East 83rd Street and Madison Avenue. When PIX 11 interviewed Mike D about his "eagle eye", shortly after the arrest, he said of the surveillance, "I recognized the tank top and his 'walk' and his tattoos." Ritter has multiple tattoos all over his body, including a NY Yankees logo under his left eye. When he was leaving a Brooklyn precinct last year, not far from his home, he yelled to reporters, "I didn't do it. I didn't do it."
Inmates in New York City jails--and in prisons around the country--are not supposed to get Internet access, and certainly not Facebook access. But with the explosion of "smart phones" getting smuggled into jails, more and more inmates are getting on Facebook .and on the web. "It's a huge problem nationally," said Martin Horn, former Commissioner for the New York City Department of Corrections. "They're literally finding thousands of phones each year (in prisons) and New Jersey finds several hundred each month."
Horn said when he was Commissioner, he instituted a policy of recording inmate telephone calls, to ensure against witness and jury tampering, or intimidation. "And the reason they like social media and the Internet is that they can evade that very listening," Horn said. He said too often, prison staff will smuggle in the smart phones .or provide access to laptops .for a price. Ironically, corrections employees in New York City are not permitted to have a cell phone inside a jail, except under extraordinary circumstances.
Former Commissioner Horn pointed out inmates could have a friend or family member post, in their name, on a Facebook account, and that's something the current Corrections administration emphasized in a statement Thursday night. "Unfortunately, passwords are transferable. Another person may have posted these messages for him."
Earlier this week, PIX 11 had gone to see Jeffrey Ritter's girlfriend, who still lives at their apartment in East New York, Brooklyn. Tahttiana Infiniti refused to answer the door. PIX had already found postings on Facebook from January 15th, where someone writing in Ritter's name said to Infiniti, "I will always find you. I love you. Not every-one is perfect. We can make through this you know that."
On the same day, there was a reference by "Ritter" to his Internet access, saying, "I can only use the computer 1x a week. Love you plz write back. Miss you sugar puss."
Thursday evening, Deputy DOC Commissioner for Public Information, Sharman Stein, told PIX 11 that Rikers Island staff had interviewed Jeffrey Ritter, and he claimed his girlfriend had opened the Facebook account for him and was posting entries.
But this information is doing nothing to quell the fears of Mike D's girlfriend. "When the cops say they got these people off the streets, you think they're off the streets and you don't have to think about them again," the woman said. "It's like 'he's back' .and there's this dread, all over again."