13 December – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Former Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald C. Kline pleaded guilty today to four felony charges of possession of child pornography, admitting that he had at least 100 images of minor boys engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Kline, a 65-year-old resident of Irvine, pleaded guilty this afternoon 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.
Kline was initially indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2001 after law enforcement authorities executed a search warrant at his home and discovered the child pornography. The investigation started after the Irvine Police Department received information that Kline kept a diary on his computer that chronicled his sexual interest in young boys. A joint investigation was then conducted by Irvine police and agents with the United States Customs Service, who are now part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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. The government appealed the ruling and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that the evidence could be used because the person who searched Kline’s computer was not acting as a government agent because no one in law enforcement knew or approved of the search. Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the matter.
The four counts of possession of child pornography carry a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. In a plea agreement filed last Friday, the government and Kline agree that the United States Sentencing Guidelines call for a sentence of 27 to 33 months in federal prison. However, this assessment is not binding on Judge Marshall, who is scheduled to sentence Kline on March 27.
As a result of his conviction, Kline will be required to register as a sex offender once he is released from prison.
Kline remains free on bond; however, he continues to be subject to home confinement.
This case is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Irvine Police Department.