Ex - Judge Agrees to Plea Deal In Child Porn Case
The former judge admits to possessing child pornography
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A former Orange County judge accused of having child pornography on his court computer has agreed to a plea deal that could put him in prison for nearly three years. The former Orange County jurist was arrested after a hacker broke into his computer and found images of young boys in sex acts.
Former Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald C. Kline broke down crying today as a judge accepted his guilty plea to four counts of possessing child pornography. Kline will be sentenced March 27 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.The judge could order Kline to serve a maximum of 20 years in federal prison but under sentencing guidelines is expected to give him 27 to 33 months. Kline admitted in a plea agreement filed Friday that he stored more than 100 sexually explicit photos of underage boys on his computer and on several disks found at his Irvine home.
By David Rosenzweig
Times Staff Writer
December 13, 2005
Choking back tears, former Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald C. Kline pleaded guilty Monday to illegally possessing child pornography on his home computer.
Under terms of a plea deal with federal prosecutors, Kline, 64, will face up to 33 months in prison when he is sentenced in March.
Kline, who has been under court-ordered home confinement since his arrest in 2001, also will be required to register as a sex offender.
The former jurist broke down while he was being asked to acknowledge the details of his crime during an appearance before U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in Los Angeles.
Flanked by his lawyers, he sipped a cup of water, regained his composure and went on to answer the judge's questions.
Kline did not speak to reporters after the hearing. But his attorneys, Paul S. Meyer and Janet I. Levine, distributed a written statement saying that their client had fully accepted responsibility for his actions.
"In many ways, he has already been punished for his conduct," Meyer added.
"He has been on strict home confinement and electronic monitoring for over four years, he lost his position as a judge, and by this plea he has forfeited all state contributions to his pension."
Kline was arrested after a Canadian hacker broke into his home computer and discovered hundreds of images of young boys engaged in sexual acts.
Bradley Willman, a self-described "computer cop," then forwarded his findings to a Colorado-based Internet watchdog group, Pedowatch, which relayed the information to Irvine police, who searched Kline's home, seized his computer and arrested him.
In a legal battle that lasted four years, Kline sought to suppress the prosecution's evidence by contending that Willman, acting as a government agent, had violated his 4th Amendment privacy rights.
In 2003, Judge Marshall tossed out most of the evidence. But last year the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Marshall, which resurrected the case.
The appeals court found that Willman had acted on his own. "Searches by private individuals are subject to the 4th Amendment only if the private individual is acting as an instrument or agent of the government at the time of the search," the court said.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined this year to hear Kline's appeal.
Timeline of Kline case
The Orange County Register
October 1995: Ronald Kline is appointed to Orange County Superior Court by Gov. Pete Wilson.
November 2001: Kline is charged with seven counts of possessing child pornography, after a hacker forwards illicit diary entries downloaded from Kline's computer to a pedophile watchdog group.
January 2002: Kline is charged with five counts of oral copulation in state court after a man comes forward to say he was molested by Kline in 1979 when he was 14.
June 2003: U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall rules that 1,500 photos of naked boys and diary entries taken from Kline's Irvine home computer cannot be used in the child-pornography case. She says the search was illegal.
July 2003: Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Pratt dismisses all molestation charges against Kline because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning prosecution of older sex-abuse allegations.
Oct. 2003: Marshall rules that photos of naked boys and links to child pornographic Web sites found on Kline's courtroom computer also cannot be used as evidence against him, because the search was illegal.
Oct. 4, 2004: Federal appeals court reverses Marshall's rulings, saying that the searches were legal.
Compiled by Register news researcher Michael Doss