Ritter sentenced to minimum of 16 months for abuse of power

Jan 15, 2021

Credit Morgan Springer

A former jail administrator in Grand Traverse County is headed to prison after receiving a minimum of 16-months in jail for embezzlement and neglect of duty. 

In a guilty plea last month, Todd Ritter admitted to using a county-owned cell phone to download pornography and facilitate sexual relationships. State prosecutors had alleged Ritter had sexual relations with several female inmates at the jail but those charges were dropped. 

In a pre-sentencing document one of Ritter's victims, who had recently been released from the Grand Traverse County jail and was on probation, outlined a trip she took with him to Lansing. Ritter paid for it with his county credit card. She said Ritter also told her intimate details about what happened in the jail. 

Ritter’s Attorney Shawn Worden argued that the victim was a “consenting adult” who began a sexual relationship with Ritter over a dating app after her release from jail. 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer disagreed, saying the victim’s statement would influence his sentence.

Elsenheimer called Ritter’s behavior “an extraordinary breach of trust” that brought “a sad chapter” to the community.

“[Inmates] are at the low point in their lives and to abuse them … is about the lowest thing that a public servant can do, frankly,” said Elsenheimer.

In the same pre-sentencing document, Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley said Ritter had “inappropriate relations” with many female inmates and his case would cast a long shadow on the department.

In court Friday, Ritter offered a brief apology.

“I do want to apologize to my agency, the community, the people that I worked with that I held in very high esteem … I still do,” said Ritter. “The victims in this case and my family … to my boys for not having a dad that they can look up to and respect right now.”

Elsenheimer ordered Ritter to report to the Leelanau County jail by 5 p.m. Friday to begin serving his sentence.