Judge, facing child pornography charges, receives only one-third of vote.

March 6, 2002

By CHELSEA J. CARTER
The Associated Press

SANTA ANA — A Superior Court judge under house arrest on a federal child pornography charge and accused of child molestation led 11 challengers but did not win enough of the vote to avoid a runoff.

Judge Ronald Kline's challengers declared partial victory Tuesday after receiving more than 66 percent of the combined vote. Kline needed to win more than 50 percent to avoid a November runoff with one of the other candidates.

"Goal No. 1 has been achieved," said write-in candidate Harris Kershnar, an Irvine labor attorney.

Kline, who was appointed to the Orange County bench in 1995, was indicted a day before the deadline for candidacy papers to be filed. As a result, his name was the only one listed on the ballot. His challengers ran as write-in candidates.

Because of the need to hand-count write-in ballots, the leader among them wasn't expected to be known until several weeks after the election.

The case earned national attention and the ire of radio talk show hosts and activists. Many of the candidates said they initially ran to give voters an option.

"At least there's another candidate now," said Gay Sandoval, a Costa Mesa trial attorney who also challenged Kline.

"Realistically, by November, the word will be out. The other person will be on the ballot. The playing field will be level by then."

William Vlosky, another write-in candidate, said he would campaign for whoever challenged the judge.

"We were very united in this," he said.

Kline was indicted in November after an Internet watchdog group forwarded a tip to authorities that he was downloading child pornography.

Federal agents seized computers at his home and courtroom office, discovering more than 100 pornographic images taken from Web sites, according to court records. Investigators said they also found a computer diary in which the judge allegedly detailed a sexual attraction to a 13-year-old boy.

In January, county prosecutors charged Kline with sexually abusing a boy between 1976 and 1978. The victim came forward after hearing about Kline's indictment, district attorney's spokeswoman Tori Richards said.

Kline, who has pleaded innocent to all charges, was placed on paid leave in November, pending the outcome of the case.

He was put under house arrest by a federal judge and ordered to wear an ankle monitor, which prohibited him from campaigning.