Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Ex-Judge Faints During Sentencing on Child Pornography Charges
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Former Orange Superior Court Judge Ronald Kline collapsed in court in Los Angeles yesterday upon learning he was being sentenced to 27 months in prison for possessing child pornography on his home computer.
Kline fell into the arms of his attorney, Paul Meyer, as Senior U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall was announcing his sentence shortly after noon. Court proceedings were temporarily halted and paramedics summoned.
Kline, 66, was revived and the hearing resumed a short time later.
The ex-jurist, a Superior Court judge from 1995 to 2003, entered a negotiated guilty plea in 2005 to four counts of an indictment charging that he kept sexually explicit pictures of young boys on his home computer. Three other counts of child pornography were dropped as part of the agreement.
In entering his plea, Kline acknowledged facing 27 to 33 months in federal prison if Marshall followed the Sentencing Guidelines. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that while a guideline sentence must be calculated in every case, the guidelines are not binding on the judge, who may impose a sentence above or below the guideline as long as it is reasonable.
Kline faced a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years. He has been on home confinement for five years and must forfeit state contributions to his pension as a result of the plea agreement.
The Irvine resident will be required to register as a sex offender once he is released from prison. Prosecutors have previously expressed concerns that he would be a risk after his release, citing a diary in which he recounted following children in shopping malls and being attracted to boys when he worked as a volunteer baseball umpire.
Kline was originally charged after a Canadian hacker used a computer program to download diary entries and other images from the judge’s computers. The hacked information was turned over to Pedowatch, a Colorado watchdog group, which notified Irvine police.
In 2003, 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.
The criminal charges resulted in the demise of his career. 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’s career officially ended in January 2003 when his term expired, although he had been off the bench for months as a result of being under home confinement.
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 struck down California’s law allowing revival of previously unreported child molestation charges if there was independent corroborating evidence. The high court said the law violated the Constitution’s Ex Post Facto Clause.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company