Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader will step aside from hundreds of cases involving the local district attorney’s office, her attorney told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The announcement comes a few days after District Attorney Danny Porter filed a formal motion asking Schrader to recuse herself from presiding over any case prosecuted by his office. Porter questioned Schrader’s ability to be impartial in such cases after learning that the judge had accused him of trying to hack into her computer — and then hired a private investigator to place a monitoring device on that county-owned computer.
Those steps she took are the subject of a criminal investigation by the GBI, and has Porter concerned that unauthorized people — including the convicted child molester hired to keep tabs on Schrader’s device — could have been given illegal access to the county’s larger network.
Schrader has said nothing publicly about the situation but her attorney, B.J. Bernstein, issued a statement to The AJC on Tuesday. Bernstein wrote that Schrader “cares deeply for the justice system” and “respects legal due process.
“For that reason, since March 27, 2019, Judge Schrader has not presided over or acted on any criminal matter handled by the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s office,” the statement said. “Due to the current investigation she has requested another Judge handle her criminal calendars and will instead continue to work on civil matters that are not part of the work of the District Attorney’s Office.”
Porter has denied trying to access Schrader’s computer, saying there was “no rational basis” for the judge’s fears.
He has, however, expressed deep concerns about the actions that purportedly resulted from those fears. The district attorney helped launch the GBI’s probe into Schrader and others after the arrest of Ed Kramer — the convicted child molester and longtime Porter nemesis.
Kramer, the exiled co-founder of popular Atlanta sci-fi convention DragonCon, was arrested in late February after being accused of taking a picture of a young boy at a Lawrenceville doctor’s office. Kramer was still on probation after his 2013 child-molestation conviction, and the doctor’s office photo was a potential probation violation.
Kramer’s home computers were searched, Porter said, and investigators found a folder with Schrader’s name on it.
According to court filings, the subsequent investigation found that Schrader had hired private investigator T.J. Ward in February to look into her hacking concerns. After a “WireShark” monitoring device was placed on Schrader’s county-owned computer, Ward tasked Kramer, who has worked as a computer forensic analyst, with tracking any suspicious activity involving the judge’s device.
Porter, who fears Kramer might have been able to gain broader access to the county’s computer network, alerted the GBI after learning all of that. The agency is investigating whether a crime was committed by Schrader, Kramer, Ward or Frank Karic, the man reportedly responsible for installing the “WireShark.”
Porter is now a witness in the case and has recused himself from the investigation.
Schrader’s recusal, meanwhile, means a new judge or judges will have to handle the nearly 500 criminal cases over which she currently presides. Those cases are in various stages of the judicial process.
It’s not clear if there will be other ramifications for the judge.
Ben Easterlin is the director of Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, which oversees judicial conduct across the state. Easterlin said Tuesday he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any complaints against Schrader, or if the JQC was involved in the matter in any way.
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