After 13 years, molestation trial of Dragon Con co-founder finally set to begin

For 13 years, half his life, Brandon has waited to confront the man he says sexually abused him.

On Monday, he’ll get his chance, as Dragon Con co-founder Edward Kramer, also charged with molesting Brandon’s older brother and another boy from 1996-2000, finally stands trial in Gwinnett County.

“I’m going to look at him dead in the eyes. I’m not scared of him,” said Brandon, now 26 and living in Texas. (It is the policy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to not identify possible victims of sexual assault). “I want to make sure (Kramer) never does this again.”

Kramer, now 52, insists he is innocent and has, through his attorneys, proclaimed his eagerness to stand trial. But a variety of maladies, caused, he says, by a broken neck sustained during a 2001 jailhouse assault, has led to almost unprecedented delays. Each time Kramer appeared in court for pre-trial hearings, he was seated in a wheelchair with an oxygen machine feeding air into his nose through a tub.

At one time it appeared Kramer would never face his accusers. In 2009, a Gwinnett judge, citing Kramer’s poor health, postponed his trial indefinitely. His lawyers say the neck injury causes him constant pain and affects his diaphragm, making it difficult for him to breathe.

But a 2011 incident in Connecticut put the sci-fi impresario back in the legal cross hairs. Kramer was arrested for endangering a child after authorities in Milford learned that he was sharing a room with a 14-year-old boy who was acting in a low-budget horror film.

Krystal Phillips, a makeup artist on the film, testified she observed Kramer, acting as the boy’s supervisor, attempt to follow him into a room where he was going to change his underwear and shorts.

“He’s 14, he doesn’t need help, ” Phillips said she told Kramer during testimony at a bond hearing earlier this year. “It made me very uncomfortable, so I had the (production assistant) stop him.”

Phillips did some quick research on Kramer and, after discovering the allegations against him in Georgia, contacted the district attorney’s office.

The conditions of Kramer’s bond at the time prohibited unsupervised contact with any child under 16 years of age, and in January he was extradited to Gwinnett. He’s been held in the county jail ever since, and additional delays appear unlikely.

“It got to the point where you didn’t expect it to happen,” said Brandon, who joined the U.S. Army after high school. He was eventually deployed to Afghanistan, where he saw combat duty near the Pakistan border.

Brandon was the first child to come forward with allegations that he was sodomized while spending the night at Kramer’s Duluth home. Weeks later, his 15-year-old brother told police he, too, was molested while visiting Kramer. In 2003, just before his first trial date, another accuser emerged claiming Kramer, a family friend, abused him between January 1996 and August 2000.

All three accusers are expected to testify.

Prosecutors say Kramer had a pattern of befriending single mothers and showering their sons with attention and gifts.

“Ed was the leading role model in my life,” Brandon said. Though he tried to put it behind him, “it’s hard for me to ignore three years of my life,” he said.

Before the arrest in Connecticut, Kramer seemed to have many defenders who believed he was innocent. But that support appears to have eroded. The Ed Kramer Defense Fund website hasn’t been updated in years.

Last year, his longtime attorney, Ed Marger, withdrew from the case against his client’s objections, citing the 2011 arrest.

And last Monday, the popular science fiction and fantasy convention he helped start in 1987 settled a lawsuit with Kramer, who accepted cash in exchange for his remaining shares in Dragon Con.

“Dragon Con’s business with Mr. Kramer is finally and forever concluded,” said convention spokesman Greg Euston.

Dave Robison, who owns a T-shirt printing business in Snellville, is standing by his old friend.

“The accusations don’t jibe at all with the person I know,” said Robison, who met Kramer through Dragon Con. “I find it really hard to believe he could wield that kind of influence over young boys. He’s not a very charismatic kind of guy.”

Prior to his arrest in 2000, Kramer worked as a clinical and educational consultant and was once program director of the Metropolitan Atlanta Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

An avid caver, Kramer often took troubled boys on excursions in the mountains, Robison said, accompanied by other adult supervisors: “He was never alone with them.”

Though his deteriorating health would seem to preclude him from enjoying such outdoor activities, Phillips, the makeup artist, testified she watched Kramer follow crew members up a hill through a wooded area without any apparent difficulty. She said Kramer wasn’t using a breathing apparatus or wheelchair.

Since being extradited to Gwinnett in January, Kramer, an Orthodox Jew, has lodged hundreds of grievances and requests for special accommodations based on his religion and ill health.

Though he’s seen Kramer avoid trial with last-minute appeals more than once, Brandon is confident this time will be different.

He’s anxious to testify but admits, with the trial looming, he’s having trouble sleeping.

“Up until a week ago, I knew we had him,” said Brandon, father of four. “Now, I’m concerned. I can’t get any sleep. I worry that he’ll be able to walk away from this.”

In recent days he’s talked to the other accusers, including his older brother, with whom he’s grown estranged.

“It’s bringing up a lot of emotions,” Brandon said. “(Kramer) destroyed my family. I’ve gone through a lot of therapy. It’s something I deal with every day. I’m ready to move on with my life.”

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