Although Ed Kramer pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of child molestation, the DragonCon co-founder insists he's innocent of the charges that date back more than 13 years.
“He maintains his innocence on all charges,” hit attorney McNeill Stokes told reporters at the Gwinnett County (Georgia) Courthouse. District Attorney Danny Porter countered that the result remains the same: “If it made him feel better not to have to say ‘I did it,’ then what difference does that make in the end?”
Kramer, who was accused of molesting three teenage boys, entered an Alford plea, in which the defendant doesn't admit guilt but acknowledges there's sufficient evidence that a judge or jury would likely find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The 52-year-old Kramer entered pleas on three of the six counts in the original indictment, one for each of the victims; the state agreed not to pursue the other charges.
Under the agreement, Kramer was sentenced to five years of house arrest for each count, to run concurrently. Because he was previously jailed in Connecticut and Georgia for 26 months, he’s left with 34 months. He also must pay $100,000 restitution to each of the victims. He will be a registered sex offender for life, and barred from interacting with anyone under the age of 16 -- which includes involvement in any occupation that could put him in contact with minors. Kramer was previously involved in photography, videography and filmmaking, all of which are now off-limits to him.
Had he been found guilty at trial, Kramer faced 25-year mandatory minimum sentences on each of the charges, with two aggravated counts potentially carrying life sentences. His attorney insists Kramer's poor health -- he's wheelchair-bound, requires an oxygen tank to breathe and allegedly suffers from a laundry list of other ailments -- meant he couldn't endure a lengthy trial.
“He’s almost paralyzed,” Stokes told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That was very much a factor. He maintains his innocence although he (pleaded) guilty because he … doesn’t think he can go through a trial.”
However, Porter's concerns lay with the three victims, who were prepared to testify, and with the taxpayers, who have had to foot the estimated $200,000 to $300,000 bill for Kramer's 11-month stay in the Gwinnett County Jail.
"I think the fact that we resolved it the way we did is a good resolution,” Porter told reporters. “We saved the county and the state tremendous expenditures, because that’s what he is … We have set it up so that any mistake puts him in the penitentiary and we’ve gotten restitution to the victims, so overall it was a good resolution. [...] And the fact that since it’s a plea he can’t appeal. He’s done.”
The three victims, now in their mid- to late 20s, were in the courtroom Monday, and approved the plea deal before it was officially offered. Two of them are half-brothers who, at age 13 and 15, said they were molested by Kramer after he met through mother through a singles line. The third met Kramer through comic shops and games of Dungeons & Dragons.
“I really don’t know what to say up here," one victim said Monday in a statement to the court. "I’m glad Mr. Porter and his office, they never stopped trying. No matter what Mr. Kramer tried to pull they kept going, and it’s amazing to finally have some type of closure.”
However, Porter admitted Monday he doubts the legal saga that began in August 2000 will end with Monday's plea. “It would not surprise me if we were back in court in 90 or 120 days on a probation revocation,” he told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “And then he’s looking at 60 years in the penitentiary.”