During a nearly four-hour hearing in Gwinnett County, a visiting judge refused to dismiss an indictment accusing Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader and two co-defendants of illegally accessing the county justice system’s computer network.
Schrader and three co-defendants, including convicted child molester Ed Kramer, were indicted in September on three counts of computer trespass for allegedly hiring a private investigator to monitor the judge’s court computer, which she suspected was hacked by District Attorney Danny Porter.
One defendant, private investigator T.J. Ward, exited the case after pleading no contest Thursday to two reduced charges of criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.
Senior Athens-Clarke County Superior Court Judge David Sweat, assigned to the case after the Gwinnett bench recused, sentenced Ward to 24 months of probation and a $2,000 fine.
Ward also agreed to assist prosecutors in the ongoing case against the remaining defendants. Lawyers from the Georgia Prosecuting Attorneys Council are handling the case after Porter and his office recused.
Lawyers for Schrader, Kramer and forensic investigator Frank Karic then asked Sweat to dismiss the indictment, arguing it was legally insufficient.
Schrader’s attorney, Palmetto solo B.J. Bernstein, said the three-count indictment was nothing more than a recitation of the computer trespass statute and failed to state how the defendants allegedly removed, altered or interfered with data on the system.
“When I looked at the indictments, I was shocked at the lack of specificity,” said Bernstein, arguing that it was “the vaguest I’ve seen” in more than 30 years practicing law.
But after retiring to review the case law, Sweat said the indictments were “barely enough, but sufficient” to survive dismissal.
Sweat also refused Kramer’s lawyer’s request to bar Porter’s office from any further involvement in prosecuting three more criminal cases against the DragonCon co-founder, who appeared in court in a wheelchair and using an oxygen tank.
Sweat did, however, agree to allow Kramer to be placed on house arrest if he posts a $25,000 bond and agrees to stringent conditions including wearing an ankle monitor and is barred from any Internet access.
Kramer is already on probation after pleading no contest in 2013 to three counts of child molestation and has been jailed since his arrest on the computer trespass charges.
When investigators examining his computers found an image of an award-winning photograph of a naked child by photographer Sally Mann, Porter lodged new charges of sexual exploitation of a child.
His attorney, Stephen Reba, said the new charges were based on an image that is available at any library and currently on exhibit at Atlanta’s High Museum, and illustrated Porter’s animus toward Kramer.