Kenny Klein convicted on child pornography charges

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NEW ORLEANS — An Orleans Parish jury found musician and Blue Star priest Kenny Klein guilty of child pornography charges yesterday. The verdict was for possessing one count of pornography involving a juvenile under the age of 13, and 19 counts of possession with intent to distribute pornography involving juveniles under the age 17. When he is sentenced Apr. 20, the penalty could be from 105 to 420 years in prison if imposed successively.

When news broke of Klein’s arrest in 2014, it rocked the Pagan world. Many who knew Klein or were familiar with his music or books made calls to allow a verdict before presuming his guilt, but were largely excoriated for it. Others took the Pagan community as a whole to task for failing to protect children in a subculture where many link nudity and sexuality directly to sacred practice. Books, workshops, and organizations focused on consent culture and abuse prevention came to the forefront.

Kenneth Klein's arrest photo.

Kenneth Klein’s arrest photo.

While it took years to bring this matter to trial, once the proceedings began it was over and done with in just three days. Jurors began their deliberations around 5:30 p.m., and returned the verdict at 9:15 that night. Many cases of this nature end in a plea bargain and are never brought to trial.

The trial was unusual even for those outside of the Pagan community; jurors were shown the videos in question, which is extremely unusual in that jurisdiction.

“Discs containing the contraband videos were hand-carried to and from the courthouse by a DA’s office investigator in a locked case, and after conclusion of the trial were placed into court custody under seal,” according to one report. Jurors “appeared visibly disturbed” while viewing the material.

Klein has maintained his innocence throughout, but not with a consistent story. A state trooper testified that he initially claimed he’d downloaded the pornography as research material for a planned Huffington Post article, which still would have violated state law.

There is no recording of that conversation, but two phone conversations he had with fiancee Lauren Devoe were. In one he told her he’d been arrested “for having underage pornography on my computer, which you warned me about,” and in another he said, “I was downloading a bunch of stuff and some of it apparently had teens in it.”

The defense strategy may have been undermined by those conversations, because it hinged upon Klein not knowing the files were there in the first place. According to attorney Bradley Phillips’ theory, they were downloaded to his laptop by or on behalf of his ex-wife, Tzipora Katz, who left the Pagan community after their divorce and only reemerged after these allegations surfaced.

Police officers testified that their investigation stemmed from detecting searches from a particular internet protocol address for “PTHC,” an initialism which is short for “pre-teen hardcore.” Once the location was ascertained, officers swooped in for an arrest, and collected several pieces of technology. One, a Toshiba laptop, had the offending videos deeply buried in a location not typical for the file-sharing program involved.

The investigator told jurors, “It was buried under several files. There was a user folder, then a folder named K, then a folder named Documents, then a folder named Fairies, then a folder named Titles, and then a folder named Basic. And when you opened that Basic folder, that’s when you could see the child pornography. The location that it was in was different from where it normally would have arrived from the file-sharing program.”

Katz, who toured with Klein as “Kenny and Tzipora” while living in a bus and helping to start Blue Star covens from coast to coast in the 1980s, was subpoenaed as a defense witness, but clearly not a friendly one. In addition to questions about her computer skills and connections to hackers, Katz was asked about her sexual practices before and during the time the two were married, and the occupations she held during their marriage.

Katz was a founder of Blue Star, and is credited together with Klein for the order’s early growth. She dropped out of the Pagan community, she maintains, because allegations she and her children made against Klein at that time were not believed, and they felt unwelcome as a result.

Jurors also heard from two adults in their 30s who were sometimes in Klein’s care as children. While what they described took place in another state and decades earlier, the testimony was allowed to establish a predilection for observing children engaging in sexual acts. Those witnesses recounted both being molested and directed to perform acts upon each other in his presence.

While one prosecutor described Klein as “sick” and “twisted” in closing arguments, his attorney maintained that no evidence had shown he knew the files were on the computer, leaving open the possibility that someone else put them there. Jurors apparently did not find that theory the more credible.

Lauren Devoe, Klein’s fiancee, testified on his behalf during the trial. She provided a written statement in response to a request, saying:

“Today I am devastated by the travesty of Kenny’s conviction. This case was not about child pornography, it was about accusations from nearly 30 years ago that were disproved in a court of law then. Kenny’s rights were violated every step of the way and he bravely stood up and said ‘no’ every step of the way. Kenny Klein is the bravest person I have ever known and I am proud of him for fighting through the most horrific experience I have ever been a part of. Most people would not have had the fortitude or will to walk this path. I am proud to stand by his side.”

On the other hand, while Tzipora Katz was unavailable for comment, her daughter did provide a statement. Mae Pax said:

Over 20 years ago we tried to speak out as a family against the countless horrors and abuses Kenneth W. Klein visited upon us for a decade. Almost nobody wanted to believe it or listen to us. Almost nobody wanted to face the reality that there was there a monster in their midst or that the way the Pagan community at large is structured could invite monsters like him into their world. We were ostracised, shunned, and called liars. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ was the rally cry. Well…

You. Were. WRONG!

I sincerely hope that in the wake of this verdict your community takes a good long, hard look in the proverbial mirror and considers the ramifications of clothing-optional events where children will be present, as well as the concept of normalizing sex as a conduit for magic. As it stands, the Pagan community is to sexual predators what a damp cloth in a warm, dark place is to mold. If you think there weren’t others who were hurt, you’re wrong, and if you think putting Kenneth W. Klein behind bars will stop it from happening again you’re foolish! This will never end until the safety of the weakest among you is put ahead of your selfish desires.

Among Klein’s contributions to modern Paganism was the book The Flowering Rod, in which he explored the role of men within the movement. It is no longer in print.

No response was received to a request for comment made to Klein’s attorney. As the Blue Star order is non-hierarchical, attempts to identify an authorized spokesperson were unsuccessful. Calls to the district attorney’s office were not returned by press time.