Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader has stopped hearing criminal cases after District Attorney Danny Porter called in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into whether she improperly allowed third parties—including a convicted felon—to access her county computer to see whether the DA hacked it.
On Friday, Porter filed a motion asking her to recuse from hundreds of cases his office is prosecuting, and to have another judge appointed.
In a statement, Schrader’s attorney said she “respects legal due process” and stopped hearing criminal matters last Wednesday.
Porter called in the GBI last month to investigate Schrader’s hiring of a private investigator to place a monitoring device on her courthouse computer, which allowed its data to be recorded and analyzed by convicted child molester Ed Kramer.
Porter has recused from the GBI investigation, because he might be called as a witness.
According to the motion and affidavit filed Friday, Porter said the investigation and Schrader’s belief that he hacked her computer put himself and his staff “in the untenable position of serving as the state’s advocates before this court while also potentially being witnesses against the same judge in future criminal proceedings.”
Schrader “has essentially accused Mr. Porter of committing a crime against her. In light of these allegations, Judge Schrader’s impartiality must reasonably be questioned in all cases, present and future, involving Mr. Porter and his office,” it said.
Porter said he first learned about the monitoring when Kramer’s lawyer filed a motion last week seeking to have the DA’s office recused from a newly-filed case accusing Kramer of recording a child during a doctor’s visit, a violation of his parole.
According to the filings, the series of events apparently began earlier this year when Schrader became concerned about prior “anomalies” within the county computer system.
Porter’s affidavit said the county information technology department had diagnosed and corrected the issues, but in February Schrader retained private investigator T.J Ward to discuss potential hacking by Porter’s office.
Investigator T.J. Ward had one of his technicians install a device called a WireShark on her computer, which allowed it to be monitored remotely.
Ward put his computer forensic analyst in charge of monitoring and analyzing the collected data, according to court filings. That analyst was Kramer, a co-founder of DragonCon who was arrested on child molestation charges in 2000 and spent years fighting Porter’s efforts to convict him until he pleaded guilty to three counts in 2013.
Kramer allegedly founds signs that someone was accessing Schrader’s computer during nonbusiness hours and, according to the motion he filed last week, was “In the midst of more detailed analysis and the preparation of documentation for Judge Schrader to utilize in contacting federal authorities” when he was arrested for the video recording incident a week earlier.
Kramer’s computers and data were seized, and he was charged with photographing a minor without their parents’ consent. Kramer remains in the Gwinnett County Jail.
Once he found out about the monitoring program, Porter referred the matter to the GBI and recused from any participation.
A statement provided by Schrader’s attorney, B.J. Bernstein, said the judge “cares deeply for the justice system. She respects legal due process and wants the best for her Gwinnett County constituents and for the public at large that find themselves with matters in the Gwinnett Courts.”
It said Schrader stopped presiding over any criminal matters being handled by Porter’s office, effective March 27.
“Due to the current investigation she has requested another Judge handle her criminal calendars and will instead continue to serve on civil matters that are not part of the work of the district attorney’s office,” it said.
It did not say whether she will recuse, as Porter requested.
“She still has to rule on the sufficiency of the motion,” Porter said. “If she finds it legally sufficient, she’ll refer it to the chief judge, who will assign it to another judge to rule on the merits.”
“My understanding is that she’s placed herself on leave, so we’re sort of working around her absence,” he said.