Gwinnett DA asks judge to step aside amid hacking claims, GBI probe

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter has taken the extraordinary step of asking a local judge to recuse herself from more than 400 criminal cases being prosecuted by his office.

Porter argues that the judge’s claims that he hacked her computer — and the GBI investigation that her subsequent actions triggered — raise questions about her ability to be impartial at the bench.

Porter vehemently denies having tried to access Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader’s computer.

The filing last Friday asking Schrader to be removed from all current and future cases brought by his office is just the latest twist in a complicated saga that also involves convicted child molester Ed Kramer, the co-founder of Atlanta's popular DragonCon convention and a longtime Porter nemesis.

“The State does not file this motion lightly,” Porter wrote in his recusal motion. “However, given the circumstances described in the accompanying affidavit, Georgia law requires that it be filed in an effort to preserve the integrity of our courts and judicial system.”

Schrader, who was first elected in 2012, did not respond Monday to multiple inquiries from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was not clear if she had an attorney.

Gwinnett courts administrator Phil Boudewyns declined to comment on Schrader’s status following Porter’s request for recusal, but said the county was “cooperating fully with this ongoing criminal investigation.”

That GBI investigation is focused not on Schrader’s original hacking fears but on her purported actions in response to those fears — and whether or not they resulted in giving several unauthorized individuals access to the county’s larger computer network.

Those individuals include Kramer, whose unrelated Feb. 26 arrest brought the Schrader situation to the attention of Porter and other investigators.

Kramer was arrested after allegedly taking a photo of a 7-year-old boy at a local doctor’s office several days earlier. In addition to new charges, he was accused of violating the probation still in place following his 2013 conviction on multiple counts of child molestation.

A post-arrest search of Kramer’s home computers found a file labeled with Schrader’s name, Porter said.

“The idea that he would be allowed anywhere near the computer network of the courts, it’s just appalling,” Porter said.

According to court filings submitted by Porter and Kramer, Schrader hired private investigator TJ Ward in February to look into concerns that someone — perhaps Porter — was attempting to remotely access her work computer during non-business hours. It is unclear why Schrader suspected the district attorney. Porter said the original issues with Schrader’s computer were nothing nefarious and were resolved by the county’s IT department.

But Ward had a man named Frank Karic install a monitoring device to Schrader’s county-owned computer. Ward then tasked Kramer — whom he has employed as a computer forensic analyst — with keeping track of the activity.

Ward worked as a private investigator for the defense team in Kramer's original child molestation case. Kramer has also claimed he helped Ward during his work with an Oxygen channel TV series about the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.

In a motion to have Porter recused from his new criminal case, the oft-litigious Kramer contended that he had found “clear signs of … exploitive activity” on Schrader’s computer and was preparing a detailed analysis of his findings before he was arrested.

Kramer, who has been exiled for years from the popular sci-fi DragonCon festival he helped found, implied that Porter had him detained because of his work on Schrader’s behalf. Porter said his office wasn’t even aware of that work until Kramer’s computers were seized.

GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles confirmed Monday that the agency’s investigation “into allegations of unauthorized access into the Gwinnett County network” began on March 11. Miles said the probe remained open and active but declined to comment further.