Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More allegations against sexting Calumet County WI DA lead to his resignation

(Original Post 9-21-10)
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has called for the removal of the Calumet County DA over allegations that he sexted a domestic violence victim and invited a "date" to an autopsy. The DA, Calumet County Attorney Kenneth Kratz, has taken a leave of absence, citing "medical reasons." Doyle cannot formally seek removal unless he receives a complaint from a Calumet County resident, something he expects to occur later this week.

The second allegation regards a woman who was "dating" Kratz when he took calls involving a missing persons case. The case involved someone believed to have been murdered. He discussed aspects of the case that no other layman (or woman) knew, and that woman alleged Kratz "invit[ed] me to go with him to the autopsy (provided I would be his girlfriend and would wear high heels and a skirt)."

Doyle said "It's mind-boggling.To have an autopsy be used for the premise of a social engagement is just beyond anything anyone can imagine, I think.... That's the part that concerns me the most because it's really the use of official duties, in his official status as district attorney, for purposes completely unrelated to his job as district attorney."

Legislators, advocates for crime victims and prosecutors from across the state had already been calling for Kratz's resignation in the wake of reports that he had sent 30 text messages last year to Stephanie L. Van Groll, 26, while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend on domestic violence charges.

Van Groll's lawyer, Michael R. Fox, said Monday that he is aware of the new allegations against Kratz. "If it's credible, it's incredible," Fox said of the letter released by Doyle's office.

Kratz began texting Van Groll just minutes after she met with him Oct. 20 to discuss the abuse her ex-boyfriend had inflicted upon her. After Van Groll told Kratz about the abuse, he asked if she would mind if he dropped the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, according to documents released Monday by the state Department of Justice.

Van Groll said she considered the request odd and told Kratz that trying to strangle someone is a felony, the documents show. Kratz sent his first text to Van Groll about 10 minutes after the meeting, telling her that she had potential and signing the message, "KEN (your favorite DA)." In other text messages sent over three days, Kratz referred to Van Groll as a "young, hot nymph" and asked if she "likes secret contact with an older married elected DA."

Van Groll reported the text messages to police. Kratz removed himself from the prosecution of Van Groll's boyfriend after the state began investigating his communication with her. The state appointed a prosecutor to take over the case, and Van Groll's ex-boyfriend was convicted in April of a domestic violence felony, according to court records.

On Friday, Kratz issued a statement saying that he "showed a lack of respect not only for my position but for the young woman that was involved," but refused to step down.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault released a joint statement saying "Whether or not Kratz has been an advocate for crime victims in the past, it is clear he can no longer serve in his current position. He has ignored victims, advocates and his peers, who have all called for him to step down. His repeated attempts to minimize his behavior show he either is in denial or only concerned for his personal interests."

The Wisconsin District Attorneys Association sent this letter, stating that Kratz' actions "has cast aspersions on our entire profession," and goes on to say that the would have fired subordinates who commites similar actions.
Van Groll's lawyer, Michael R. Fox, said "I am going to pull up every floorboard that I can to see what is behind this. There are things here that don't make sense. It is very strange how it has come to light. I believe my client was treated the way she was treated because she is a woman and was very vulnerable because she was a victim of domestic violence. It strikes me as something that requires further inquiry, because I don't know how you can text a victim in such a suggestive way and not immediately, the moment those texts leave your (phone), be in a conflict of interest."

(Update 9-22-10) Two more women have claimed that Kratz has harassed them. Maria Ruskiewicz, an Appleton, WI native who is now 31, claimed that she was sexted when she met with him in 2008 to discuss a pardon for a 1997 drug conviction. Ruskiewicz needed the pardon because as a student attending Oklahoma City University as a law student, it was necessary for her career goals. Kratz had prosecuted her for the drug conviction and she needed his support for the application she would send to Govenor Jim Doyle.

At the meeting, Kratz asked her about secratary - boss sex, and afterwards Kratz began to send her sexually suggestive texts, including texts describing him in the bedroom. After discussing the harassment with relatives, Ruskiewicz asked Kratz to stop texting her, which he did.

Deborah Felice, the associate dean for students at the law school, said she met with Ruskiewicz at her request on Sept. 25, 2008, to discuss the messages.

"She said she was very upset because she was pursuing a pardon and the DA she was working with was sending her these text messages that were basically stalking her," Felice said, adding that she was shown some of the messages.

Felice said she and Ruskiewicz met with a university lawyer five days later. They decided the best course of action was to ignore Kratz and hope he would go away. Felice said she spoke with Ruskiewicz weeks later and the messages had stopped, and "that's the last I heard of it until this morning," when she saw a segment about Kratz on national TV.

Richard Ginkowski, an assistant Kenosha County prosecutor, discussed the texts with Ruskiewicz as they were discussing the pardon application, and Ginkowski offered to take the matter to the Office of Lawyer Regulation, but "I decided in the end I didn't want to rock the boat." Since the scandal broke, she has said "This is not an isolated event. This happened a year prior to the first woman who came out. He is choosing women who are in vulnerable positions, not just women in general."

Ruskiewicz was granted her pardon last month by Gov. Doyle. A fourth woman has also claimed that Kratz contacted her inappropriately.

(Update 10-5-10) Kratz resigned yesterday as Calumet County DA. In a letter to Jim Doyle, Kratz said, "I hereby resign from my position as District Attorney, Calumet County, effective immediately." The resignation ends Kratz' 18 year career as Calumet County, WI district attorney. The resignation ends the official removal process, with a hearing scheduled for October 8 in Chilton being canceled.

A statement sent by fax to news outlets said Kratz remains at an out-of-state treatment center. He apologized to his "wife, son and entire family for the embarrassment and shame I have caused" and offered his "deepest apology to the citizens of Calumet County."

He cited an undisclosed condition for which he's receiving treatment as his downfall. "I have lost the confidence of the people I represent due primarily to personal issues which have now affected my professional career," Kratz wrote.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence spokesman Tony Gibart said "I think the resignation is an important step and a necessary step. It's something that had to happen for victims to regain trust in the Calumet County legal system." However, Gibart said that Kratz needs to also face professional and perhaps even criminal charges for his actions. "I don't think that [only a resignation]sends the right message to victims," Gibart said.

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