In Which a Long and Tangled Story Reaches a Less than Satisfactory Ending
*This was intended to see post Tuesday. However, a conversation with a friend Monday night made me think on the subject and about my initial reactions and words. Ultimately, I’ve decided to post what I wrote Monday, but with corrected references to the day with regards to tense and an additional piece at the end explaining the take my friend had. While my gut doesn’t fully subscribe to her take on the matter, it does have merit and it unfortunately comes from a perspective that I was not looking at the matter from. Most of you reading this likely know my feelings about the outcome from reading some of my shorter comments here and there in the last few days. If you want to skip the long version and go straight to the newer bit, scroll down and start reading when the font color changes.
So, Monday morning had a bit of a surprise to it; more than one actually.
I logged into Facebook and one of the first things I saw in my news feed was the news out of Georgia that Ed Kramer had pled guilty to the charges of molestation. I have to admit, I honestly didn’t believe it at first. For one thing, I didn’t think that they were even going to get him into court for his December 2nd court date at all. Kramer has spent the last 13 years proving that he could manipulate the Gwinnett courts with ease and often came off looking as though he was easily able to outsmart their entire system. This was something done in large part because of what appeared to be a totally inept system that made one wonder at times how they managed to get anyone tried and convicted. I was sure that the day’s news would be about yet another delay in the long series of delays and a new court date for some time in 2014.
My surprise grew even greater when I clicked the link and read that Kramer had pled guilty before the jury had even been assembled. Now, you, if you’ve not followed this case, have to understand that this just comes across as totally unKramer-like. In the last 13 years, Kramer has gummed up, twisted up, and dragged out the system with every trick he could pull out of his hat. And his ability and desire to engage in annoying shenanigans to infuriate the system hadn’t come across as diminished in any way in the last year as report after report came out of the jails about his filing hundreds upon hundreds of complaints and grievances with the jails, complaints and grievances that they were required to spend time, money, and man hours responding to, and lining up yet more “medical problems” to stall the December trial. I fully expected the man to continue gumming up the works and to continue avoiding justice until the day he stood face to face with the devil himself. And even then I fully expected him to have Old Scratch ripping his hair out for a while. To see a news report that indicated that he pled guilty essentially before the trial had even started, they were docketed for jury selection after all, just seemed unreal. Then I saw two things that made me want to throw my laptop out the window.
1) Kramer’s attorney had worked out a plea deal. And, the most galling aspect of that, Kramer pled guilty without even admitting to wrongdoing. As a matter of fact, he denied any wrongdoing to the very end. See, he entered something known as an Alford plea. For those of you who don’t know the term, I give you the Cornell University Law School definition of an Alford plea.
“Also known as a “best-interests plea,” an Alford plea registers a formal claim neither of guilt nor innocence toward charges brought against a defendant in criminal court. Like anolo contendere plea, an Alford plea arrests the full process of criminal trial because the defendant — typically, only with the court’s permission — accepts all the ramifications of a guilty verdict (i.e. punishment) without first attesting to having committed the crime. The name, Alford plea, is taken from North Carolina v. Alford 400 U.S. 25.”
The most common usage of this plea is claiming innocence while stating that the prosecution has enough evidence to “wrongly” convict. In Kramer’s case, his attorney said that due to breathing problems, a broken neck, and the lingering effects of having undergone numerous surgeries, Kramer “just wasn’t physically able to stand trial.”
The idea with this kind of thing is sometimes to offer to save the court time and money and to then bargain for reduced or dropped charges and sentences in return. In most cases that I know of, the plea also means that you surrender your right to appeal. Both sides hammer out the deal and everything is essentially done. The Fat Lady sings her song and everyone goes home. But at least the punishment, after all of these years of manipulation, games, breaking the terms of his house arrest multiple times, embarrassing the D.A.’s office, and leaving the state to prey on others ON TOP OF the original offenses should be pretty damned stiff, right? Nope. That’s number two.
2) From what I’ve read, Kramer is getting a slap on the wrists. Some charges were either dropped or reduced. What Kramer was finally hit with was this. He will be registered as a sex offender. He was sentenced to five years for each of the three charges, one for each victim, which will be served concurrently with his last two-plus years in jail awaiting trial counted in against the sentence. Basically, he’s set to serve 34 months of time. And it gets better.
Some time back I quoted Danny Porter, the D.A., stating that the elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about was that, even if they ever convicted Kramer, they would never be able to keep him in jail. His complaints and his “medical issues” would make him too expensive to keep and almost impossible to deal with. Apparently, he still felt that way this week. Ed Kramer is getting 34 months on monitored house arrest.
You read that right. After molesting three children, breaking the terms of his bonds over and over again, roaming the country unmonitored while the Gwinnett authorities thought they knew where he was, and seemingly attempting to prey on yet another child, the man gets to spend the next 34 months in his home with a monitor bracelet on.
He also has to pay each of the three victims $100,000 and will, after house arrest be on a “strictly monitored” probation for another 15 years. During this time, he cannot leave the county. One only hopes that the “strictly monitored” probation is handled better and more attentively than his prior times out and about when he went where he pleased and where the embarrassed D.A.’s office actually admitted to not even realizing that Kramer was in some of the places that he was in fact in.
And he never admitted to the crimes. He never admitted wrongdoing. He never even stood trial.
I can’t help but to read the news stories and think that, ultimately, Kramer won. He has played the system like a game for thirteen years, making the rules, pulling their strings, and making them dance to his tune, and he just wore the system down. Three lives permanently damaged, embarrassing the system on a repeated basis, and essentially thumbing his nose at the courts, the jails, and the D.A. for all of this time, and the punishment is less than I’ve seen people get for over getting busted with pot.
I’ve been following this with some level of interest mixed with professional curiosity since late 2005. By that point there was already a huge amount of news stories available in the five year ordeal and reading through it became an exercise in infuriation. While many of the earliest news stories and blog threads didn’t have enough concrete information, just rumor and speculation, to feel strongly enough about guilt or innocence one way or another, there was plenty there to make you want to smack your head with your hand at how poorly the case was being handled. Stories closer to 2005 gave a much greater indication of a guilty man working the system and creating delay after delay, but it also painted that much more of a picture of an ineptly handled legal case by that local system. Reading about someone twisting the legal system in knots like that was, professionally, annoying as hell.
I don’t think there was another major development in the situation until around mid-2008 when they lifted his house arrest. Even that seemed strange when I heard about it in the latter half of the year. If you were at all familiar with the case by that time, you knew how badly he played the system and how many times he had violated the terms of his bond. Hearing the news that they had decided to basically just let the man start roaming free in the area just seemed asinine to me. In 2009 they were back to talking about a court date in the first half of the year. By the time 2010 was upon us, there had been yet another delay. After that, the only real Kramer related news items for a while were the lawsuits he was launching against others.
Then 2011 happened. Kramer was nailed in a Connecticut hotel room with a young boy. He was in violation of the terms of his bond, serious violations as well, and he had publicly embarrassed the D.A.’s office who had to admit that they had no idea that, despite being responsible for keeping up with his whereabouts and activities, Kramer had been traveling so much or even that he was in Connecticut. And there was anger at this point. There was anger not only by the embarrassed D.A.’s office, but by the people in two states who were now reading about this ineptly handled, eleven year old case that had somehow never made it to trial. I actually thought we were going to see something happen at last. Turns out, at least then, I was wrong. 2011 turned into 2012 and that turned into 2013, and still we saw no trial. We saw lots of talk about fast tracking the case to trial and having everything ready to go at last, but we didn’t see a trial. And, of course, we saw Kramer playing games again.
Then the boycott happened. As I outlined in my first post on the matter, my major problem with the boycott was (outside of the inaccuracies, exaggerations, lies, attacks on people’s family members for disagreeing with them, attempts to attack people’s employment for disagreeing with them, declarations of wishing people would die painful deaths for disagreeing with them, gleefully calling women who disagreed with them cunts, etc.) that I felt that the target, the convention that Kramer had had nothing to do with for more than a decade, was the wrong focus of for the energy. Here was a group of people claiming that they wanted justice, yet their target was an organization with zero ability to control, contain, or imprison Kramer or to in any way get the man to trial. The focus, as I stated back then, should have been on the legal system and in letting them know that they were being watched and scrutinized. It should have been about using the army of people that could have been raised to raise awareness rather than spitefully alienating an army to raise a troop.
But despite that, there was a positive aspect of the boycott with regards to the legal system. There was increased media coverage and media coverage in places that hadn’t followed the matter in years if at all. But then the boycott went away and the media spotlight dimmed just a bit. And that’s when, with regards to this matter specifically, I actually worried a little bit that we were going to start seeing a repeat of the prior 13 years of the case starting up all over again. And, truth be told, it was starting to look that way.
And now this happens. After 13 years of running them in circles and wearing the system down, Kramer bargains his way out of even ever standing trial and into what feels like an insignificant slap on the wrists.
It’s an insult to anyone who wanted to see justice done and it should be an embarrassment to the system down there that a man who did so much wrong for so long is getting off with less punishment than the millions of other people in prisons who have done far, far less.
Oh… One word of advice to the other people out there who are as angry about this as I am and have been trying to rationalize this into something positive-
I understand the need to do so. It’s probably better for you in the long run and less expensive than putting your fist through your monitor. But, please, think before you type. I’ve already seen some people trying to find a positive in this with a scenario that looks like you’re hoping for something really bad. Some of you have said that the good thing is that the deal allows him no appeal and no recourse should he violate the terms by reverting to form in the upcoming years. It’s been described by some of you as basically a trap. He’ll revert to form, do it again, and then go to jail for the rest of his life.
Uhm… No. I sympathize with wanting to make silk out of this sows ear, but think about what you’re writing and how that looks. Yes, we would love to see him face justice and go away for a very, very long time, but we do not want that at the expense of another life destroyed. I know what you mean and I know what you’re really saying, but, please, think it through a bit more before your type it.
And with that, I am once and for all truly and finally done writing about Ed Kramer.
Okay, welcome to part two and a few days later. It’s been an interesting few days of thinking not only because of a perspective that I didn’t have before, but because of learning something I didn’t know about someone I know.
I have a friend who is a few years older than I am and a fellow raving geek. She’s become familiar with this case over the last roughly three years and found my link page to be rather useful reading to catch up on the back story with. As such, she’s gotten a fairly good handle on things at this point. I figured that she, also in a job that has her at least affiliated with law enforcement and legal matters, would be kind of pissed about the slap on the wrists. Instead, she said something that hadn’t crossed my mind or even gotten into my thick head by Monday night.
“But is that what the victims wanted?”
I’ll freely admit that I think I looked at her for a moment as if she was speaking a foreign language and I was an idiot trying to decipher it. I asked her to explain. She did, and, oh boy, was it a doozy of an explanation.
Years ago, long before moving here, she was the victim of a nasty assault. A man came at her from out of a dark, bush covered area, grabbed her, threw her down into the bushes and beat her to within an inch of her life. He then prepared to rape her. Fortunately, despite the cliché, someone heard what sounded like a struggle and someone in need of help and actually called the police rather than turning away. The responding units must have been pretty close, because they arrived before he was able to actually rape her.
And then her experience with the courts began. Her case went on for a little over a year. She said one of the worst things was wanting justice, but feeling this giant ball of fear and anxiety in her stomach growing every time a court date was approaching. And what was even worse than even that was when a last minute delay would happen and that anxiety would just explode and she would have it start all over again when the next date was coming up. It was a year she doesn’t like to remember or think about and she was more thankful than she thought she would be when it was over.
And then she said that she has absolutely no idea how hellish it must have been for his three victims. For one thing, they were children when it happened to them. For another, it was a deeper violation than what she experienced. And, lastly, their experience with seeking a trial and closure has lasted over a decade.
When it first started, the set dates turning into delays were fairly close together. Then they spaced out onto months. Then they spaced out into years. I think the longest stretch between discussed dates in court was roughly seven years. As she put it, they were never being given closure, but they were likely being given time to start healing. And then, years later, he would come along and rip the wounds open again. In thirteen years, there has been no closure for these young men and no ability to put it behind them and start trying to heal the scars without fear of him coming back into their lives and ripping it all apart again. Her point of view is that these young men very much wanted justice, but that, at this point, they likely needed closure just as much if not more.
And she may well have been right. In talking about it with her, it jogged something along those lines in my memory. Back in 2006, Kramer had attempted to immigrate to Israel. The deal worked out with Porter was that he would leave the country and never return and that this would essentially pass as a sentence for the crime. I was kind of glad that this immigration attempt failed at the time. Setting a predator lose among new potential prey just because he was a pain to deal with seemed irresponsible. But it was Porter’s comments explaining it that became important in the here and now.
Porter stated that he spoke to the victims about the deal before agreeing to it and they were on-board with it. The reason they agreed to it? They just wanted to finally get it behind them.
And that was seven years ago. It had only been six years at that point. We’re up to year thirteen now.
I don’t think that anyone that ever reads this can know what was in the heads of the victims as this was being settled upon. No one can know what they all felt they wanted or, more importantly, needed at this point. And I mean no one can as there has never been a case involving crimes like this with the games, the delays, the incompetence, and the infuriating longevity of this one anywhere else that I know of. They’ve had thirteen years with no closure for them and no ability to start healing without the fear of it all crashing down around them again.
Maybe this isn’t the level of justice that some of us wanted to see done here and maybe the punishment seems to us to be insignificant when compared to the crimes, but then, maybe, as my friend pointed out, some justice with ultimate closure was what was needed now rather than the risk of another half decade to full decade of this continuing on as it has so far.
Yeah, you and I can point to how ineptly this was handled, point to what look like gross failures by the local legal system, and say that it should never have dragged out this long, but the fact of the matter is that is has dragged out this long and it could have kept on going even longer. And, yeah, in my gut and likely yours that still doesn’t sit well, but it is something to think about and maybe consider when commenting on the matter elsewhere right now.
And now, with that, I am actually once and for all truly and finally done writing about Ed Kramer.