Tuesday, September 18, 2007

a great letter

Sept. 16, 2007

Gwinnett Daily Post
25 Old Norcross Road
Lawrenceville, GA 30045

To The Editor,

For the eighth straight year, Ed Kramer spent the start of the Jewish High Holidays at home, alone. Each year, Ed Kramer has requested to the Court to participate in services among his peers. And, for each of the past eight years they have been declined (or partially approved such that his participation would violate all precepts of Jewish law). Members of other faiths, however, accused of crimes in Gwinnett County – including murder – have been permitted without restriction to participate in services of their faiths. Why was Ed different?

On August 25, 2000, Ed voluntarily drove to the Gwinnett Police Station to talk to an officer after an anonymous call left with family services the previous morning questioned his relationship with the teen sons of a woman he'd been seeing. Implausibly, the police rushed to their school just moments after the call; yet, transcripts of their taped interviews deny abuse. Next, they descended on their mother, but somehow forget to tape the interrogation, so we will never know what was said.

Accusations of abuse happen daily in Gwinnett County. Investigations take months, and when arrests are made, very few make the news, and often vanish without a trace. Erik Cooper was one. After a lengthy investigation, he faced 180 years in jail stemming from numerous charges from many of the foster kids he'd kept over the years. A Gwinnett jury later acquitted him on every count, after it became appeared that each young man was manipulated into saying things they knew were not true. Ronald Shelton's case was another; again, many manipulated youth, resulting in a full acquittal.

Little more that 24 hours after the innocuous phone message, Ed met with police, without an attorney present, and was arrested. He put his innocence on record, and even offered to submit himself -- on the spot -- to a police polygraph exam, but it was declined (DA Danny Porter later used this same lie detector exam to toss out a rape accusation on a Gwinnett minister against his own 4-year-old nephew, despite medical evidence to the contrary). They next arrived at Ed's house loading up box after box with a wide assortment of items.

Police proudly announced that they had confiscated over 200 pornographic films from Ed's home, and made rolls of commercially developed photos he took to sound the same. However, none of these were ever produced in court. My husband (Ed's younger cousin) and I had been to Ed's home; we knew this couldn't be true. It wasn't. After the Gwinnett Court threw out the videotapes from "evidence," DA Danny Porter appealed. Two years later the Georgia Court of Appeals conceded that the videos not pornographic, and picked as their representation of Ed's collection 'The Blues Brothers', 'Saving Private Ryan', 'Gladiator', and most appropriately, 'Conspiracy Theory.' The Court also ruled that the entire search warrant's description was "so open-ended, that it was in violation of both the Georgia and United States Constitutions. "

Ed was denied bond; the District Attorney testified that he had "no ties to the community" (one of the requirements for denial). Aside from Dragon*Con, Ed was an Emory College and Medical School graduate, Gwinnett home-owner, businessman, technology consultant and a Georgia resident for over 20 years, with his elderly Mother living a mere ten miles away. Six witnesses took the stand in defense of Ed, but Judge Debra Turner declared that Ed posed a "significant threat to the community." In 2006, when Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department announced it had charged six men with aggravated sexual battery, aggravated child molestation, and statutory rape for their video-taped rape of a 12-year-old, DA Danny Porter allowed several out on bond despite an FBI videotape of the offenses alleged, after attorney Ed Garland said his client was an "outstanding businessman with an impeccable career and character," that he had no idea the girl was underage, and therefore not a risk.

Gwinnett Daily Post reporter Jim Kvicala was once quoted, "We were interested in the story by virtue of his prominence with Dragon*Con." And why not? Dragon*Con represents the largest annual collection of gamers, comics fans and sci-fi aficionados in this half of the US. My husband and I have attended in full Renaissance attire. In fact, as a young teen he traveled with Ed to countless other conventions as well. His father, a retired FBI agent, approved, and, approved of Ed as well. As a former victim, I take these charges very seriously. So I talked extensively to my husband about his observations and experiences with Ed and others when he was at that vulnerable age. He recalls no hint of improprieties. As difficult as it is for me to give the benefit of the doubt on this issue, I believe in Ed. Even if I didn't, he is entitled to be "assumed innocent until proven (not suspected, but proven) guilty." Maybe Gwinnett's interest wasn't the sci-fi connection. Then what?

Gwinnett Attorney John Matteson (who has no connection to Ed) has
offered: "Gwinnett is a profoundly racist, anti-Semitic and corrupt
county that hides behind a carefully fabricated facade (to the contrary)." From the beginning, Ed was presented to Court as an "orthodox Jew" by the arresting officer; it was probably the only truthful statement ever placed on record about him. His case was assigned to Judge Dawson Jackson, then enigmatically reassigned to Judge Debra Turner, the only Gwinnett Judge who had converted from Judaism to Christianity. Mr. Matteson raised the question of Anti-Semitism, telling Atlanta Jewish Life magazine, "Debra Turner is very likable and that's what makes her so deadly."

Blatant anti-Semitic remarks were routinely made by Ed's jailers, documented in sworn testimony – not by Ed – but by others who watched his mistreatment firsthand: "The sheriff's department is going to hang that Jewish son-of-a-bitch. " "If you don't want to swing with him, you'd better stay away form him or you could end up swinging from the same rope." And, after bible study was canceled by a Deputy because Ed was asked to speak on Judaism, "I refuse to allow a Jewish Christ killer to attend." Rev. Thomas Coley told the Atlanta Jewish Life, "The anti-Semitism there was horrendous. As a black detainee there's only one thing that I can think that would've been worse for me — and that's if I was Jewish."

Anne McCaffrey, renowned author of the Dragonriders of Pern series, wrote to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's (SFWA) Forum, "I naively thought that such epithets as "Jewish Christ-killer" (especially as it was the Romans who passed the sentence) had gone the way of "nigger" but, obviously I'm wrong. I never had much use for the State of Georgia anyhow but there are limits past which any right-thinking person must take action. As a euro-citizen, I would be happy to take it to The Hague." SFWA member Darrell Schweitzer saw it as "flagrant anti-Semitism, " encouraging Ed to, "sue and seek criminal prosecutions of his torturers. And, quite frankly, of his accusers. As far as I can tell, he has suffered this ordeal merely because of a malicious lie. This sort of thing has happened before, not necessarily in the South. In Salem, Massachusetts, for example."

I, myself, was shocked upon my engagement to my husband to find myself asked if "a good Christian girl like [me] was really going to marry a dirty Jew?" Or if I was aware that "he [personally? ] had killed Jesus?" And did I think I "could raise children safely with a godless Jew lurking around." I wondered if we were really in the 21st century! Until then, I thought this kind of blind, ignorant, baseless bigotry only existed in movies. But let me assure you, it exists in Georgia today. Since that eye-opening time, I have found it nearly impossible to register disbelief over any of the remarks and actions on record against Ed. It's all too sadly and exhaustingly real.

While incarcerated, Ed was the subject of an assault. It was premeditated, witnessed, and even the Sheriff's Deputies joked about it. Gwinnett resident David Foster watched a masked Sheriff's Deputy slam Ed's head into a into a reinforced cinder block wall hard enough to leave a golf-ball size extrusion on his forehead. Rev. Coley told Atlanta Jewish Life that one of the deputies admitted to him that the assault happened. "This deputy was telling me that they damn near broke his neck and he was happy about it," recalls Coley. An MRI ordered by the jail showed a spinal cord injury, yet the jail had Ed sleeping on the floor and refused to give him a mattress or a pillow when one became available, according to sworn affidavit. Ed's physician, who examined the injuries, called the situation "disastrous. "

In a recent interview in the Gwinnett Daily Post, DA Danny Porter blamed Ed's injuries on an auto accident occurring 3 years later, despite jail and medial records to the contrary. Saying that any court came to that conclusion was gross misstatement, to which Porter was well aware. Ed's legal date of disability was set by a Federal Court to his Gwinnett incarceration. One reporter, Benyamin Cohen, sought copies of the state-required incident report where Ed was assaulted, but found they didn't exist (or the jail couldn't seem to locate them). Yet, records of the assault do exist, and are present in the Court record. Furthermore, Porter's supposed "investigation" neglected to include any of the eye-witnesses, who still live in Gwinnett.

Ironically, several months after the Deputy disabled Ed in the assault, my husband and I sat with Ed's mother and his Rabbi as they waited for him to come out of cervical spine surgery (the first of many to follow) at Northside Hospital, yet his elderly mom was prevented by Judge Turner from even seeing him in the recovery room or intensive care unit. It was a heartbreaking task to try to explain to her that she would be responsible for sending "her baby" back to jail if she set foot across the threshold of his room, even just to touch him. In fact, Ed's mom was prevented by Judge Turner from visiting him for nearly his first two years of incarceration – even though he lived under home confinement. Even if Ed remained in jail solitary confinement, he would have at least had twice-weekly visiting privileges. Was any other accused in Gwinnett discriminated against as much?

A little more about me. I've been happily married to Ed's cousin for seven years - what some people consider a successfully long marriage. Ed was incarcerated shortly after our wedding - nearly our whole life together. I work for a construction company - which means I am well acquainted with the "Good 'Ol Boy Network." I am also a semi-professional actress and director in my spare time. I've been at it for over a decade, so I can spot bad acting a mile a way. DA Danny Porter postures in the Gwinnett Daily Post that Ed is to blame for over seven years of delays in his case coming to trial. I know this to be a bald-faced lie, and Mr. Porter is a very bad actor. Back in November, I sat in a Gwinnett courtroom and watch a badly rehearsed play unfold where Judge Turner first released the attorney that Ed had already paid in full, then asked Mr. Porter to appoint Ed a public defender.

Had the Court wanted Ed to stand trial, it most certainly would not have effectively fired his attorney against his will. Mr. Porter also conceded in testimony that he, alone, was responsible for setting the Court calender, so that the years of delays appeared carefully planned by his office (Good Ol' Boy Network?). I was also stunned to hear Mr. Porter bring up Ed's religious worship derogatorily in a motions hearing where no mention of worship was discussed (I understand from Ed that he did it again in May.) The quote that floored me was, "He can't have his religious holidays and his day in court, too." Did an educated man actually say that?! This is all too reminiscent of Mel Gibson's faux pau at a traffic stop. Then, Judge Debra Turner offered to recuse herself from the trial because of - guess what - previous anti-Semitic issues. Surely, Porter must realize that a new Judge and counsel could only delay things even more.

I first pondered why Gwinnett County would want to delay Ed's trial further, but there was something nagging me even more. Why does DA Daniel Porter, a publicly elected official and CourtTV sweetheart, need to lie at all? Why did Mike Nifong have to? Then, it came to me: It's because the facts of the case against Ed could never stand up in court. If the case was based on truth, then why pepper it with lies so egregious that anyone knowledgeable of the facts could see right through it? Maybe, its because it's the best they possibly can do.

So who is the real victim here? Well, most certainly Ed is. Mike Nifong's three victims in the Duke Lacrosse case have now sued for $30 million for stealing a single year of their young lives. How much are seven worth, compounded with permanent disability? How about Ed's friends? They are certainly victims, not being able to associate with Ed for what will be almost a decade. And, the kids themselves, brainwashed into thinking that someone that would mentor them, would also harm them. But there's a larger victim – society itself. With every underhanded delay of what should, constitutionally be a "fair and speedy trial," our citizens lose faith in our justice system. With each additional false accusation of child abuse, there will be fewer adults who will risk helping a child in need.

– Tami Scheinman
Gwinnett County, Georgia

Tami Scheinman
"Helping the helpless, befriending the friendless, and defeating... the feetless!"


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Tami Scheinman said...

To Whom It May Concern: Four years ago this letter was dictated to me and in the interest of family harmony, I agreed to submit it. I would now like my name removed as one of Mr. Kramer's supporters. He has, in my opinion, been mistreated by Gwinnett County. However, it is time for him to stop the manipulations, come to trial and defend himself, like any other mere mortal. And my God have mercy on his soul.