All three men who were indicted alongside Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader took the witness stand in her trial on Wednesday.
And when prosecutors asked them why they felt it was OK to install a monitoring device on the judge’s computer, all three offered versions of the same answer: Schrader said it was.
“She was the one that requested us to be there, she told me to do it,” Frank Karic, a former Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy, testified. “She’s a Superior Court judge. I was in law enforcement for 16 years, and that’s the highest authority there is.”
Schrader, Karic and two other men – private investigator T.J. Ward and registered sex offender Ed Kramer – were all indicted last year on computer trespass charges, accused of working together to improperly access and monitor activity on the Gwinnett County computer network.
Karic, Ward and Kramer later entered agreements with prosecutors to avoid trial. Testifying in Schrader’s trial was part of the deal and they did so Wednesday, the second day of proceedings in the case against the judge.
They provided more insight into how the events of early last year unfolded – and said that Schrader did not initially know that she was working with Kramer, the co-founder of popular Atlanta sci-fi convention DragonCon and a registered sex offender with a lengthy history in Gwinnett’s criminal justice system.
According to testimony, Schrader contacted Ward, a well-known private investigator, last February after she had a number of computer-related issues at work. She purportedly feared that there was a “conspiracy” within the courthouse and that District Attorney Danny Porter may be trying to hack into her computer.
(Porter denied that allegation under oath on Tuesday, and county IT workers suggested Schrader’s technology issues were the result of “common errors.”)
Ward enlisted Karic and Kramer, both of whom did contract work for the private investigator. Ward reportedly told Kramer that “a friend named Kathryn” needed help and provided her number – while instructing him to tell her his name was Eliot, the middle name that he frequently uses as an alias.
Kramer testified that he did not tell Schrader who he was, even after she identified herself as a judge in the judicial circuit where he spent years battling child-molestation charges. And even after she shared her fears that Porter, Kramer’s longtime legal nemesis, could be involved.
“It wasn’t relevant to her problems,” Kramer testified.
Still, Kramer said he thought it prudent not to install monitoring equipment on Schrader’s computer himself. He purchased the necessary devices and gave them to Karic, providing instructions on how to install them.
Karic said Schrader was present all three times he came to her chambers to get things running properly. On at least one of the occasions, Karic said, Schrader sent office staff home early so he wouldn’t be seen.
A few weeks after the device was put in place, Kramer was arrested on an unrelated charge and investigators searching his home computer found a file folder with Schrader’s name on it.
According to testimony, Schrader did not know she’d been working with Kramer until after a March 6 meeting where she and other judges were informed that he was under investigation for allegedly accessing the county computer network.
Porter also stopped by the judge’s office. Schrader had her cellphone pointed at the ceiling but the camera rolling.
The video was played for jurors Wednesday.
“It’s just weird that he would have anything related to me at all on his computer,” Schrader said. “At all.”
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