The wizard of Dragon*Con stands trial 

The force behind Atlanta's largest sci-fi convention finds himself in his own world of darkness

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During a jail riot a few days after that, Kramer's head was slammed into a cell wall, causing neurological damage that later required spinal surgery. In late January, Kramer was again allowed for health reasons to return home, where he is required to wear an ankle monitor and stay within view of a closed-circuit camera. He is forbidden from answering his own phone.

"I don't think he's even allowed to answer the door to get a pizza, in case it's a young delivery boy," Clemmons says.

Kramer and his lawyer, high-priced Buford attorney Walt Britt, would not talk to CL. His most vocal supporter, Rebecca Bidwell, who maintains the Ed Kramer Legal Defense Fund website, cancelled a scheduled interview.

David Robinson, with whom Kramer helped found an annual caving convention in North Georgia, says that even if his friend is cleared by a jury, his life is largely ruined. "Because of his injuries, he can never go caving again; he'll never be the same," he says.

Robinson predicts the case against Kramer, who still phones him every other week or so, will turn out to be completely based on false accusations and slander against a man who made himself vulnerable by offering a hand out to so many.

"I've seen him help people who he didn't need to help, who are now among those ready to string him up because of his physical appearance," Robinson says.

Says Ellison of Kramer: "He's so naive and provincial that he let this thing happen to him out of the adolescent assumption that everything would work out fine, and it's destroyed his life. The damage has been done by Nancy Collins and her demento husband."

Pat Henry has worked hard to distance Dragon*Con from Kramer's legal troubles. But with record attendance topping an estimated 20,000 in 2001, the event's first Ed-less year, the bad publicity seems to have taken little toll.

Still, Henry, a devout Christian, enforced more conservative limits of attire and behavior on what had become under Kramer a near-anything-goes event.

While Kramer is still a major Dragon*Con shareholder, no dividends were issued last year on the private stock, says Henry, adding that his longtime associate no longer has any other official connection to the event he ran like a ringmaster for 14 years.

But if Kramer is exonerated -- and Henry believes he will be ("We're talking about a guy I've been to strip clubs with.") -- the door is wide open for him to return to the realm of Dragon*Con. Because, in no small way, Kramer's own vindication seems intertwined with that of the fantasy convention itself.

Says Henry: "Just because we like to dress up and read science fiction doesn't make us a bunch or perverts and freaks."


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