LAWRENCEVILLE — Dragon Con spokesman Greg Euston gets straight to the point.
The science fiction convention that Ed Kramer helped found years ago has grown immensely, welcoming more than 50,000 attendees to downtown Atlanta in recent years. It’s become a phenomenon — even while fighting the perception that it’s still affiliated with Kramer, an alleged child molester who used comic books and action figures to get close with his victims.
“Ed Kramer has not had any role in organizing or directing Dragon Con since October 2000,” Euston said last week. “We have nothing to do with him and he has nothing to do with us.”
The Dragon Con folks join a long list of people happy that Kramer, charged by Gwinnett County police more than 13 years ago, will finally stand trial next week on four counts of child molestation and two counts of aggravated child molestation.
Then again, given the case’s history, maybe “tentatively scheduled” to stand trial is the best way to phrase it.
“There could always be a stick in the bicycle wheel,” District Attorney Danny Porter said. “With this case you never know.”
Kramer was originally arrested on Aug. 25, 2000, after two boys, ages 13 and 15, came forward claiming he had touched them inappropriately over a four-year period. A third alleged victim joined the case in 2003.
Since then, the case has gone untried — and grown wildly convoluted.
Amid various motions and filings, medical and religious complaints and an ever-changing team of defense attorneys, Kramer avoided trial for almost a decade. He was released from house arrest in 2009 and the case remained in a holding pattern for two more years before he was allegedly spotted in a Milford, Conn., hotel room with an unsupervised 14-year-old boy.
He fought his extradition to Georgia for more than a year, taking it all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court, before being booked back into the Gwinnett County jail in January.
“This case has almost been the perfect storm, between motions by the defendant to continue the case, the case going up on appeal, changes in attorneys,” said Porter, who took the case over in 2005 in an ill-fated effort to dispose of it more quickly. “There were two times at least when the case was scheduled for trial where the state requested a continuance … I’ve never seen anything like it.”
After more than a decade, a trial is scheduled to begin Monday.
Key at issue will be Kramer’s various ailments, which Porter has been skeptical of and called “incarceration induced.” The Gwinnett County jail’s medical director testified earlier this year that Kramer suffers from, among other things, pain from a cervical fusion, psoriatic arthritis, diabetes and emphysema. He typically uses an electric wheelchair and requires an oxygen tube.
An order signed last week by Judge Karen Beyers outlines the accommodations Kramer will be afforded in the courtroom. Paraphrased, they include:
— Access to medications
— Use of his oxygen system and TENS unit (an electrical nerve stimulator used to treat back pain), as well as plenty of batteries for them and “personnel knowledgeable in the operation of such equipment.”
— A wheelchair or walker
— “Proper nutrition to manage his blood sugar”
— A 60- to 90-minute break from proceedings “approximately every four hours,” and the opportunity to recline during those breaks
— The use of an “assistive listening system”
All that is drastically more relaxed than previous requests filed by various incarnations of Kramer’s defense team, and the break requirements aren’t far off from a typical trial’s testimony-lunch-testimony schedule. The order does allow for Kramer’s defense team to file additional motions, which would be heard Monday prior to jury selection beginning.
Kramer’s unofficial lead attorney, Brian Steel, deferred comment to co-counsel McNeill Stokes. Stokes did not return messages left via voicemail and email.
Lost in the chaos over the years is the relative simplicity of the actual case: three alleged victims will testify, a foundation will be laid as to how they came to know Kramer, police detectives will give a rundown of the investigation, and then the defense will present whatever case it has.
“It’s going to be no different than any other case in that sense,” Porter said.
Porter said he’s kept up with the alleged victims — now “grown men with careers” — over the years and made travel accommodations for them last week. They’re scattered in various places on the western side of the country.
The case is now older than some of them were at the time of Kramer’s alleged crimes.
“They’ve been frustrated with me, they’ve been frustrated with the system, they’ve been frustrated with the defendant,” Porter said. “It’s been a very difficult situation for them.”
Of course, even a conviction wouldn’t mean a simple ending.
It’s been so long since Kramer’s original arrest that sentencing guidelines have actually changed: each of the six counts of child molestation he’s facing now carries a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison; the two aggravated counts now have the potential for life sentences.
If any type of conviction is reached, Kramer’s defense team will likely try to have him sentenced under the lighter penalties available at the time of his arrest in 2000.
Then there’s the matter of how to best incarcerate an inmate with a litany of medical issues — whether real, imagined, exaggerated or some mix of all three — and one who’s lodged hundreds of complaints in less than a year at the Gwinnett County jail.
“The real elephant in the room is if we were to try the case, and if he were convicted, and if he were sentenced to the Georgia prison system, he’s so difficult to maintain in incarceration that what I’m afraid of is he might be paroled out early,” Porter said. “And then we’d have to rely on parole to control his behavior. That’s something of real concern to me.”
“The frustration level is so high among his caretakers,” Porter added, “that they’re just like, ‘Oh my god, what are we going to do with this guy?’”