DragonCon co-founder Edward Kramer was wheeled into a Gwinnett County courtroom Friday with a battery-powered oxygen tank strapped to the back of his wheelchair.
His defense lawyer, Brian Steel, asked the judge to allow the 52-year-old man accused of molesting three boys to be released on bond under house arrest with an ankle monitor, given his medically frail state.
“It is agonizing to see someone who clearly has medical needs be incarcerated,” Steel said.
But Superior Court Judge Karen E. Beyers denied the request for bond after hearing testimony from two prosecution witnesses, each of whom said they saw Kramer less than two years ago tromping through wilderness areas with 12 pounds of camera gear in tow.
Kramer has been awaiting trial an extraordinary 13 years. He has been out of jail on bond with special conditions that allowed him to travel to doctor’s appointments and to see his mother for most of that time. But he was arrested Sept. 14, 2011, in Connecticut on allegations that he violated the conditions of bond by having unsupervised contact with a 14-year-old boy.
He is accused of molesting three young boys between 1996 and 2000. Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter told Beyers that Kramer has clearly engaged in a “pattern of misrepresentation” about his physical condition in an effort to avoid trial.
“The only time when Mr. Kramer is physically in distress is when he’s facing the consequences of this case,” Porter said.
In 2009, Kramer’s case was put on hold indefinitely after the defendant, sitting in a wheelchair, told the judge he was uncertain he could stay awake and alert enough to assist in his own defense. A spinal injury makes it hard to sit, stand or breathe, and he is in chronic pain, he said.
Friday’s hearing proceeded over the low hum of Kramer’s oxygen machine and the occasional beeps from the machine to signal a low battery. But Kramer lasted only about an hour in court before asking to be returned to the county jail because he said he didn’t feel well.
“Your honor, I am requesting to go back to the medical unit,” Kramer said wheezily, adding “it is not my choice.”
Beyers remarked that she could see no apparent change in Kramer’s condition, but she allowed him to waive his right to be present.
As a condition of his bond, Kramer was allowed to travel to New York and New Jersey for doctor’s appointments and to visit his ailing (now deceased) mother. But he was required to report once a week to the District Attorney’s Office using a land-line phone that could be traced if necessary.
Porter said he has since learned that Kramer was using a cellphone to report during the last year of his bond, and that he had traveled outside of the approved states to Connecticut and Kentucky.
An audio/visual producer, Tim Gooch, testified that he saw Kramer in May 2011 on the set of a “Lord of the Rings” spoof he was filming in Brandenberg, Ky.
Kramer, a science-fiction author, was friends with an investor in the movie, and he brought a camera to film some behind-the-scenes clips, Gooch said. Gooch said Kramer walked with a cane that converted into a stool and carried camera equipment with him that weighed about 12 pounds.
Makeup artist Krystal Phillips testified that she was working on the set of a low-budget horror movie in Milford, Conn., when she encountered Kramer. She said he was acting as the guardian for a 14-year-old boy who had been cast in the film.
Phillips testified that Kramer wasn’t using a breathing apparatus or wheelchair. She said he walked with crew members up a hill through a wooded area without any seeming difficulty.
Later, Phillips said that Kramer followed the boy and other young male cast members back to a cabin to clean themselves after being “slimed” during filming. When the 14-year-old was sent to another room to change his underwear and shorts, Phillips said Kramer tried to go with him.
“He’s 14, he doesn’t need help,” Phillips testified. “It made me very uncomfortable, so I had the PA (production assistant) stop him.”
Later, Phillips said she did an online search of Kramer’s name and found articles that spurred her to contact authorities.