Dragon*Con founder finally to get day in court

Ed Kramer has spent more than two years under house arrest

When hundreds of Klingons, orcs and Lara Croft look-alikes parade up Peachtree Street on Saturday for the 16th annual Dragon*Con fantasy convention, Ed Kramer won't be with them.

Instead, the confab's founder and longtime overseer will be in the same place he's been for the past two years, in a Gwinnett subdivision under house arrest as he awaits trial on aggravated child molestation charges.

Although Kramer's view has remained unchanged as several trial dates have come and gone, it now looks as if he'll finally get to see the inside of a courtroom this fall. His trial is scheduled for Nov. 3 and prosecutor Jim Miskell says there's no reason to believe that this latest appointment won't actually happen. A previous court date of Aug. 11 was pushed back by Miskell because of a family emergency.

Aug. 25 marked the third anniversary of Kramer's arrest for allegedly molesting the two teenage sons of his girlfriend during sleepovers at his house in the summer of 2000.

His trial has been scheduled and rescheduled numerous times since then while Kramer's already fragile health deteriorated. In early 2000, a Gwinnett judge allowed him to move from the county jail to his own home, where Kramer could receive treatment for various skin and bone ailments and undergo physical therapy for injuries sustained during a jail raid. He's remained at home ever since, where he's required to step in front of a video camera every few minutes to confirm he hasn't gone outside.

While three years seems a long time for both defendants and the alleged victims to wait for their day in court, says Gwinnett Assistant District Attorney Miskell: "Unfortunately, it's not that unusual."

Especially when both sides in a case spend months battling over pre-trial motions. For instance, although a February 2002 court date was abandoned when a judge threw out Gwinnett's entire jury pool due to flaws in the jury-selection process, the case stood little chance of going to trial because of an unresolved dispute over evidence.

This March, Kramer's attorneys finally won a fight to exclude from evidence hundreds of videotapes taken from his house by police shortly before his arrest. While many of the tapes are titles that can be rented from Blockbuster, prosecutors had hoped to introduce them to demonstrate an overall pattern of interest in young boys.

Kramer also got back dozens of copies of Terror at Tate Manor, an independent horror film he wrote and produced that shows a teenage boy running around in his underwear. Kramer's also been returned a longsword and a pistol. Rebecca Bidwell, a friend who runs the Ed Kramer Defense Fund website, says a second handgun taken from his house is still missing.

"I suspect they want him to throw up his hands and plead guilty, but Ed will never do that," she says. "He's in it for the long haul."

Bidwell says Kramer is scheduled for surgery this fall on his spine; he's had to have several vertebrae fused because of injuries to his neck from rough treatment by prison guards during his second stay in Gwinnett jail, she says.

Kramer's original bond was revoked in 2000 by Superior Court Judge Debra Turner after a neighbor reported seeing a teenage boy enter his house, in violation of his bond order.

Last year, Kramer filed a civil suit against the county for the injuries he says he sustained during the half-year he spent behind bars. No court date has been set for that case.

Kramer's lead attorney in both his criminal and civil case is prominent Gwinnett defense lawyer Walt Britt. Last year, Britt suffered a major defeat when his client Time Warner Entertainment was ordered to pay $454 million in damages for cheating Six Flags over Georgia in the installation of several rides, the largest civil jury award in state history.

Meanwhile, Dragon*Con seems to show few lasting effects from Kramer's legal woes. Co-founder Pat Henry, who owns local Titan Comics stores, says pre-registration numbers are up over last year's event, which boasted a record attendance of more than 20,000. Saturday's parade is expected to feature such C-level celebs as ex-wrestler-turned-bad-movie-star "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, TV's Hulk, Lou Ferrigno; and aging Sulu actor George Takei.