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Orange County

Tip Led to Inquiry of Judge

Crime: An online watchdog site contacted O.C. officials about Ronald C. Kline, who faces child porn charge.


An anonymous e-mail sent in March to a sex-watchdog Web site prompted authorities to investigate an Orange County Superior Court judge who was charged last week with possessing child pornography, police said Monday.

The e-mail, which accused Judge Ronald C. Kline of keeping illegal photos on his home computer, was sent in late March to, a Colorado-based site that tracked online sex offenders, according to Irvine police and the operator of the Web site. The site, a one-woman operation that began in 1996, has shut down in the financial fallout of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The tipster also e-mailed excerpts from a diary allegedly written by Kline that detailed a strong interest in young boys, authorities said. The tip did not identify Kline as a judge but mentioned that he lived in Irvine, according to the woman who ran the Web site, Julie Posey.

Concerned, Posey said she made inquiries to see if the correspondence was a hoax. After discovering that Kline did, indeed, live in Irvine, Posey said she forwarded the e-mail to state and local investigators in July.

Soon afterward, Irvine detectives told her that the accusations involved a civil court judge.

"I thought, 'You're kidding me,' " Posey said. "I couldn't believe it. You'd think that a guy with that kind of career would know better."

The tipster's identity remains a mystery to Posey. Despite sending diary excerpts allegedly written by the judge, the e-mail's author claimed not to know Kline, she said.

Irvine police said they know who wrote the e-mail but declined to elaborate.

The e-mail's content was crucial to their case against Kline, said Police Lt. Sam Allevato. Once they read the e-mail, police spent months in an effort to confirm the correspondence, operating alongside a task force of federal and district attorney's investigators, he said.

Detectives worked with great care to build their case, he said.

"You're dealing with a very high-profile suspect here, and you want to make sure the information is accurate and that we proceeded lawfully," Allevato said.

Based in part on the e-mail, detectives executed a search warrant on Kline's home Nov. 5. Police discovered a diary in which Kline allegedly wrote about his sexual attraction to teenage boys and how he would often visit malls, Little League games and the shower area of an athletic club.

Investigators also uncovered computer diskettes containing five downloaded images of young boys engaging in sex acts, according to court records.

Federal prosecutors on Friday filed one count of possessing child pornography, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. A federal judge ordered Kline detained at home pending the outcome of the case.

Reached at his home Monday, Kline declined to discuss the case, referring calls to his attorneys, who could not be reached for comment. Kline is running unopposed for reelection to the bench next spring.

Pedowatch has been credited by police for helping detectives nationwide make 22 arrests, Posey said. In most cases, Posey said, she posed as a teenage girl in sting operations.

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