With Athens Judge David Sweat presiding over a Monday court proceeding, DragonCon co-founder and registered sex offender Ed Kramer struck a plea deal in Gwinnett County's courthouse hacking case. Kramer was one of four people indicted last year in the convoluted case, which involves allegations that suspended Judge Kathryn Schrader gave a private investigator and others improper access to the Gwinnett County computer network. All were originally charged with three counts of computer trespass. The case began unraveling after Kramer's unrelated arrest last February, when he was accused of taking a photograph of a child in a Lawrenceville doctor's office. Investigators conducting a subsequent search of Kramer's home computer reportedly found a folder with Schrader's name on it.
From Tyler Estep and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Atlanta WSBTV
During a Monday morning court hearing, Kramer became the third defendant to avoid facing a jury in the case. He entered a negotiated Alford plea, which functions as a guilty plea but allows him to maintain his innocence.
Prosecutors said Kramer will be expected to testify when Schrader goes to trial and won’t be formally sentenced until afterward. But the plea means his sentence will likely involve probation rather than prison time.
Kramer’s decision came a week after another defendant, Frank Karic, agreed to enter a pre-trial diversion program in exchange for his testimony in the case. A third defendant, private investigator T.J. Ward, pleaded out in November and got two years probation.
Ward too is expected to testify in next week’s trial — which is now set to include just one high-profile defendant.
Schrader, who has been suspended from the bench by Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission pending the outcome of the case, is accused of starting the series of events that landed her and the others in legal trouble.
According to investigators, the judge hired Ward early last year to look for evidence that someone tried to hack into the judge’s work computer. She reportedly feared that Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter was the culprit, though it remains unclear why. Porter has denied the allegation.
When Ward was hired, he tasked Karic with installing a traffic monitoring device on Schrader’s computer. Kramer, who has worked as a computer forensic analyst, was then given the job of keeping tabs on network activity, authorities believe.
The case began unraveling following Kramer’s unrelated arrest last February, when he was accused of taking a photograph of a child in a Lawrenceville doctor’s office. Investigators conducting a subsequent search of Kramer’s home computer reportedly found a folder with Schrader’s name on it.
Kramer helped start the popular Atlanta sci-fi convention DragonCon but has not been affiliated with the event for years. He was charged with child molestation in 2000, accused of inappropriately touching several young boys, but avoided prosecution until he entered a plea in 2013.
The hacking case and the case surrounding the alleged doctor’s office photograph aren’t the only legal trouble in which Kramer currently finds himself. Authorities have also filed child pornography charges against him after allegedly finding controversial images on his computer during the hacking investigation.