Friday, June 16, 2006
CJP Censures Ex-Judge Kline, Awaiting Sentencing in Pornography Case, and Bars Him From Assignments
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A former Orange Superior Court judge who pled guilty to possession of child pornography last December has been censured and barred from performing court-assigned work, the Commission on Judicial Performance said yesterday.
In a release, the commission said it had unanimously accepted an agreement by which Ronald C. Kline accepted the maximum penalty that the CJP may impose on an ex-judge. The agreement made an evidentiary hearing unnecessary.
Kline, 65, has been under house arrest since being charged in 2002. He pled guilty to four counts of possessing child pornography as part of an agreement that resulted in the dismissal of three other counts.
His arrest and home confinement effectively ended his judicial career, although his tenure officially ended in January 2003 when his term expired. He was appointed to the court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1995.
The commission noted that had he remained on the bench, his felony conviction would have made removal mandatory.
Kline is due to be sentenced July 31. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison in the case, although the non-binding Sentencing Guidelines call for a term of 27 to 33 months.
Kline was charged after a Canadian hacker used a computer program to download diary entries and other images from Kline’s computers. The information was turned over to Pedowatch, a Colorado watchdog group, which notified Irvine police.
In 2003, Senior U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall ruled that the hacker, Bradley Willman of British Columbia, was working as a government agent when he hacked Kline’s computer, and suppressed the prosecution’s evidence because there was no search warrant.
But a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel, while agreeing that the search was illegal, said it was “private” and thus did not implicate the Fourth Amendment and the exclusionary rule.
Willman had attached a “Trojan Horse” virus to pornographic images of children on the Internet. The virus, which is downloaded onto an individual’s computer when that individual downloads an image to which the virus is attached, enabled Willman to open, alter, and download files on the infected computer.
Kline is a former partner in the law firm of Haight, Brown & Bonesteel, where he was a managing partner before then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the bench in 1995. He is a graduate of Rice University in Houston, obtained his law degree at the University of Texas, and practiced in Houston before coming to California in the 1970s.
He was arrested after the filing deadline for the 2002 primary, but 11 write-in candidates filed to oppose him and he came in second in the voting.
He later obtained a court ruling permitting him to withdraw from the general election. Kline wanted to get off the ballot, his attorney explained at the time, because the publicity that the inevitable constant airing of the allegations during an election campaign would hurt his client’s bid for a fair trial.
Kline was also charged in Orange Superior Court with molesting a former neighbor when the accuser was 14 years old in 1979. The man came forward after learning about the child pornography arrest.
The charges were dropped after the U.S. Supreme Court held that California’s law allowing revival of time-barred child molestation charges under certain circumstances could not be applied in cases where the original limitations period had expired before the revival statute was enacted.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company