Gwinnett judge, DragonCon co-founder indicted in hacking case

A Gwinnett County judge has been indicted after allegedly hiring private investigators and a convicted felon to monitor her work computer, allowing them improper access to the county’s network.

Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, convicted child molester and DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer and private investigators T.J. Ward and Frank Karic are all facing three charges of criminal trespass in the case. Each felony count carries a maximum of 15 years in prison.

The indictment alleges that Schrader, Kramer, Ward and Karic used the county’s computer network in order to interfere, remove data and “alter” the network.

Schrader was released without having to pay bond after turning herself in Wednesday afternoon. Ward and Karic’s bonds have been set at $25,000 and Kramer was denied bond. Ward, Karic and Kramer had not been booked into jail by Wednesday afternoon, according to jail logs.

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

The case is being handled by the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia because Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is considered a witness in this case. He had previously turned the investigation over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for the same reason.

Porter has said the judge claimed that he hacked her computer. Porter has vehemently denied having tried to access Schrader’s computer and said in an April hearing that her accusation raises questions about her ability to be impartial at the bench.

Court documents allege Schrader hired a private investigator in February because she suspected someone was trying to remotely access her county-issued computer outside of business hours. The investigator, T.J. Ward, hired Ed Kramer to monitor activity on Schrader’s computer.

Kramer, who hasn’t been involved with DragonCon for years, had previously worked for Ward as a computer forensic analyst. A “WireShark” monitoring device was placed on Schrader’s computer, which allowed Kramer to monitor it for any suspicious activity.

Investigators first discovered Kramer was working with Schrader after Kramer's February arrest on unrelated charges. Kramer allegedly took a photo of a child at a doctor's office, which is illegal because he is a registered sex offender. It also violated his probation related to a 2013 child molestation conviction. When police searched Kramer's computer, officers found a file with Schrader's name on it.

Schrader has been recused from criminal cases since April, as Porter's office handles those prosecutions, but she has still overseen civil cases. The state Judicial Qualifications Commission will have to decide whether she can remain on the bench at all while her own criminal case is underway. Once the commission's three-person hearing panel receives a copy of the indictment, it has 14 days to study the situation. At the end of that two-week period, the panel will decide whether Schrader "poses a danger to the public or to the administration of justice" and suspend her with pay, according to Ben Easterlin, the commission's director.

Schrader, Ward, Karic and Kramer did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon. Schrader’s attorney B.J. Bernstein issued a statement on Schrader’s behalf. Porter declined to comment on the case.

“Judge Schrader has spent her career pursuing justice as an attorney and as a judge,” Bernstein said. “She believes in the justice system and knows from her years of experience the presumption of innocence is real and necessary because she’s seen the innocent needing a trial to undo an allegation. Standing unfairly accused she will rely on her deep faith, family and her belief in justice to defend herself.”

Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this report.

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