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Orange County

O.C. Judge Faces New Charges

Crime: Six additional counts of possession of child pornography are filed against Ronald Kline. His lawyer says he will plead not guilty.

November 29, 2001|MONTE MORIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Orange County judge charged this month with possession of child pornography now faces additional counts after a search of his home and his computer uncovered more than 100 images of child pornography, according to a federal indictment.

A federal grand jury on Wednesday returned six new counts of possession of child pornography against Superior Court Judge Ronald C. Kline, 61.

The images, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Deirdre Eliot, depict sexual intercourse and lewd conduct involving male minors. "Based on these six counts, the defendant could face a penalty of 30 years imprisonment," Eliot said.

Kline's lawyer, Paul Meyer, said his client planned to plead not guilty during an arraignment Monday.

The charges stem from tips authorities received from a group that surfs the Internet in search of child-pornography traders. Meyer claims the case is based on information that was gained illegally by hackers.

"The photos were discovered when a hacker in a remote location infected his computer with a virus and made an unauthorized copy of the entire contents of his hard drive," Meyer said. "The contents included Kline's private medical and financial information. The computer also housed a diary that included private thoughts that Judge Kline had never shared with anyone."

Meyer did not say who he believes did the hacking.

While authorities have said that at least 100 of the images used actual children and were not computer generated, child pornography defendants are not charged on a per-image basis. Instead, they are charged for each medium on which the images appear, such as a magazine or videotape. In Kline's case, prosecutors say the images were stored on six items--his computer's hard drive, a videotape, three computer disks and a 100MB portable storage drive.

When Kline surrendered Nov. 9 to local and federal authorities, prosecutors alleged that Kline's diary contained passages about having a sexual attraction to teenage boys and claimed he would visit shopping malls, Little League games and the shower of an athletic club to observe them.

Authorities have not charged Kline in connection with the diary, nor have they accused him of soliciting or making contact with any minors. However, a judge placed Kline under home detention in Irvine. He must wear an electronic monitoring device and has been barred from surfing the Internet, contacting minors alone and loitering near schools or arcades.

At the time he surrendered to authorities, Kline said through his lawyer that none of the charges involved the use of his courthouse computer. On Wednesday, officials said they had yet to search his work computer files.

While no disciplinary action has been taken against Kline by the California State Bar, the Orange County Superior Court has placed him on paid administrative leave. Kline's annual salary is $133,051.

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