Gwinnett County judge Schrader re-indicted in computer hacking case

Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader during the first day of her trial on computer trespass charges. CHANNEL 2 ACTION NEWS
Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader during the first day of her trial on computer trespass charges. CHANNEL 2 ACTION NEWS

Kathryn Schrader, an embattled Gwinnett County judge who lost her reelection bid this summer, was indicted last week for a second time.

Schrader had been accused of three counts of computer trespass in a convoluted case that involved a private investigator and two contractors gaining access to the county’s computer system.

That case ended in a mistrial in February. A new trial was set for April, but was delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, a grand jury again indicted Schrader for her role in the case in which three other co-defendants already reached plea agreements to avoid trial.

In addition to a felony indictment for computer trespass, Schrader was indicted for felony computer theft and misdemeanor password disclosure. The indictment also included both misdemeanor and felony charges for tampering with evidence and a felony charge for violating her oath of office.

Arraignment is set for Dec. 4.

Brian Steel, an attorney representing Schrader, said he thought the charges were “baseless.”

“That indictment can house 1,000 counts,” he said. “She committed absolutely no crime whatsoever.”

The charges relate to Schrader’s decision to connect a device to her work computer, on the county network, after she thought someone was trying to hack her in early 2019.

In the earlier trial, Schrader said she hired private investigator T.J. Ward because the county’s IT department was not taking her seriously. She reportedly feared a courthouse “conspiracy” could be afoot.

A contractor working for Ward, former Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy Frank Karic, subsequently installed a traffic monitoring device on Schrader’s computer. Another contractor — Ed Kramer, the co-founder of pop culture convention DragonCon and a registered sex offender — was then tasked with analyzing the data collected.

The indictment says Schrader gave Karic her password and data was sent to Kramer’s computer.

It also accuses her of concealing the device, called a SharkTap, and a tablet computer to which it was attached so as to prevent her prosecution and that of Ward, Karic and Kramer. And it says she violated her oath of office by tampering with evidence.

Shelia Ross, an attorney with the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia who is trying the case, declined to comment. Steel said Schrader, who has not presided over a case since her first indictment, maintains her innocence.

“I think it’s an extremely sad day in our criminal justice system,” he said. “There was no evidence.”

Schrader was first elected in 2012. She lost her bid to remain a Superior Court judge in an August runoff to Deborah Fluker, a magistrate judge in the county. Fluker, who has been sitting in Superior Court by designation, said she ran because she was concerned Schrader wasn’t fulfilling her job duties.

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