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December 16, 2005

Judge pleads guilty to child porn

From the Post Chronicle...

An Orange County, California Superior Court judge pleaded guilty on Tuesday to four felony charges of possession of child pornography. He admitted that he had at least 100 images of minor boys engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Judge Ronald Kline, a 65-year-old resident of Irvine, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles before United States District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall. Pleading guilty to four of seven counts contained in a grand jury indictment, Kline admitted that the images of child pornography were on his home computer, two computer floppy disks and one Zip drive disk.

Dang, the guy still uses floppies?!?

Anyway, the story turned out to be a bit interesting once I did a little research. I found the following...

A British Columbia hacker who retrieved an electronic sex diary from the computer of a senior California judge says he ignored "intimidating" orders by Canadian officials to drop the case.

Instead, the hacker, known as OmniPotent, pressed ahead because the judge's journal entries showed an apparent plot to sexually exploit young boys at a private health club.

OmniPotent has spent night after night penetrating up to 3,000 private computers in search of child predators from his home in Langley, B.C. Though the police have yet to credit him publicly, OmniPotent is the same mysterious hacker who led the Mounties to the capture and conviction of an Alberta man who offered his eight-year-old daughter up for sex via the Internet in 1999....

His latest investigation has led to the U.S. indictment of Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kline, who is now under house arrest awaiting trial on six counts of possession of child pornography. In all of this, the Canadian hacker has remained anonymous -- even in police affidavits....

The hacker, who uses several aliases in chat groups, says he measures his success by his "contribution" to protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

In the case against Judge Kline, U.S. detectives credit him alone for breaking it open. "The diary he retrieved gave us the probability that we needed to get the search warrant," said California Det. Ronald Carr....

In the electronic journal, excerpted in police documents, the author writes exclusively about his sexual interest in young boys. The journal entries span May 2000 through March 2001 and detail the author's deviant sexual urges and the times and places where he meets young boys. These details and his written thoughts about cases before him made it easy for authorities to conclude the retrieved diary was genuine.

The judge, a Little League umpire, had contact with numerous boys at ball games, in a mall and at a private health club -- where he befriended vulnerable young boys with the hopes of exploiting them....

In the journal, the author seems fixated with young boys and often writes about the problems of enticing them to be alone with him. He talks about buying them baseball tickets and giving them a tour around town in his Porsche Boxster. According to California Motor Vehicles records, a 2000 Boxster with the licence 4HTV361 is registered to Judge Kline.

Sometimes, he found it hard to control his urges. In one entry, the author writes about sitting next to a young boy at a pizzeria, and rubbing his back "with no resistance at all." Other times, the author wrote that when he was preparing to give a drive to a boy to a baseball game, he likened it to getting ready for a date.

In some entries, the author would keep track of a number of boys, writing down the times and places where he encountered them. At a private health club, the author wrote that he leered at young boys, describing their bodies in sexual ways and expressing disappointment when he was unable to see the boys' undress.

Because the author was noting the names of the boys and tracking their movement, OmniPotent feared he would molest one of the targeted boys. In turn, he forwarded the electronic journal to Predator-Hunter.com, an Internet organization created to stop child exploitation.

"We use creative and legal means, often through Internet technology, to bring pedophiles who prey on children to justice," said president Wendell Krueth.

It was Mr. Krueth who first verified the electronic journal was genuine by cross-checking details found in the entries. Then, Predator-Hunter.com forwarded the material to Julie Posey, founder of a Colorado-based Internet watchdog group, Pedowatch. It was Ms. Posey who forwarded the diary to justice officials in California. In a police affidavit, detectives say that Ms. Posey told them that the Canadian hacker said he was working as an informant for customs agents.

"OmniPotent was concerned because of the prominence of the person involved. We were very cautious before handing over the files," Mr. Krueth said.

On May 8, 2001, Irvine Police Det. Ron Carr was assigned to assist the California Department of Justice in a probe into alleged child pornography.

The detective then echoed Predator-Hunter. com's investigation, cross-checking all the details found in the diary, ranging from the judge's involvement in Little League to the names of the boys who held memberships at a private health club.

He concluded the journal was genuine, then set out to track the informant. He found that the U.S. Customs Service had issued a summons for computer records in an earlier attempt to identify the mysterious Canadian hacker. The June 13, 2001, summons was served during an investigation into the distribution of child porn.

Several records showed that OmniPotent had used bogus subscriber information so well that he was in fact undetectable. Meanwhile, a child advocate told the detective that OmniPotent had told her that he ran a Web site. The detective was then able to trace the domain to a name and address in Langley, B.C.

On Aug. 16, Det. Carr travelled to Langley, just outside Vancouver, to interview Citizen Tipster. In the interview, held at RCMP headquarters, the hacker told police that he had created a Trojan Horse program and successfully loaded it on some 3,000 computers worldwide. The program allows Citizen Tipster to retrieve e-mail, graphics, text and other files from targeted computers. This form of computer virus is usually attached to another file masquerading as a benign application or other file. If the unsuspecting user downloads the file with the attachment, the Trojan Horse is automatically attached to the targeted computer.

In the interview, Citizen Tipster agreed to hand over his hard drives to police in exchange for new ones. And while the hacker was the key to launching the case against the judge, he will not be called as a witness, and remains anonymous to this day.

From the first article...

While the case was pending, Kline challenged the search that turned up the child pornography, arguing that the person who used a "Trojan Horse" program to access his computer was acting as a government agent. Judge Marshall granted Kline's motion to suppress the evidence of child pornography.

A Canadian hacker is a government agent? Right. I also found the following...

A judge accused of possessing child pornography told investigators he downloaded pictures but believed they were legal, according to federal court documents released this week.

"I just didn't think that what I had was illegal," Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kline told police investigators in a partial transcript that was released in the documents.

What's he doing rising to the position of a Superior Court judge if he doesn't even know child porn is illegal?

Now a word of warning, though. What the Canadian did was illegal under our laws, but since he's Canadian, didn't apply to him. If you read through the whole thing you'll have noticed that there are quite a few groups on the internet using modern technology to track down pedophiles. That in itself is a good thing, but I've read through the sites put up by some of these people, and they have a tendency to gloat a lot. That tells me that they see this more than as providing a service, they see it as entertainment. I watched a show last night called "The Repossessors" where they following people who repossess vehicles. There you could plainly see some of them were nothing but bullies who found another job that paid them to be mean to people. They laughed and joked about what they were doing and called it fun.

In the Judge's case, a bad man was caught, but up above there are stories of some men who were falsely accused of rape, and spend years in prison because someone bent the rules to get them convicted. The same technology that allows the watchdog groups to track down pedophiles can also, easily be used to plant evidence to make someone look like a pedophile. So far, it appears as if the police and legal authorities go on more than just the computer evidence they find, which is good. But when you have people skilled at internet technology and get a thrill out of exposing "bad guys" how long until one or more decide to up the game by creating "bad guys" out of ordinary, innocent citizens? Remember the pedophile is simply someone who redirected his normal sexual urges into an area that it doesn't belong. There's a thin line between gloating over catching the guilty and redirecting that thrill to creating the "guilty". The watchdog groups need to be careful. It's very obvious some are taking the wrong attitude, and some guidelines should be drawn up before things get out of hand.

Posted by Danny Carlton at December 16, 2005 09:08 AM

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