Wisconsin County DA Resigns from Office over Texts
By Jim Collar, (Appleton, Wis.) Post-Crescent
Calumet County Dist. Atty. Ken Kratz resigned today after almost three weeks of controversy over sexually suggestive text messages he sent last year to a woman who was the victim in a domestic violence case he was prosecuting.
“It is with deep sadness and regret that I announce my resignation as Calumet County district attorney, effective immediately,” Kratz wrote in a statement. “I have lost the confidence of the people I represent due primarily to personal issues which have now affected my professional career.”
The controversy began Sept. 15 when The Associated Press reported Kratz had sent 30 text messages sent to domestic violence victim Stephanie Van Groll over three days in October 2009.
Kratz in one text asked, “Are u the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA…the riskier the better?”
In another, he said “I have the $350,000 house. I have the 6-figure career. You may have the tall, young, hot nymph, but I am the prize!”
Several other women came forward with reports of inappropriate sexual advances from Kratz in the days to follow.
Maria Ruskiewicz, an Appleton native, said Kratz began sending her sexually suggestive text messages in 2008 when she was a law school student in Oklahoma and seeking his support to secure a governor’s pardon on a decade-old marijuana conviction.
Another woman, an alleged domestic violence victim, told the Post-Crescent that earlier this year Kratz offered to help her write a victim impact statement in exchange for sex.
Outrage was swift after Kratz’s texts to Van Groll became public.
Within days, crime victim advocacy organizations, lawmakers and Kratz’s fellow district attorneys called for him to step down from office.
Kratz initially refused to step down, but changed his mind after Gov. Jim Doyle initiated his rarely used constitutional power to remove a district attorney from office.
In his statement today, Kratz said he’s seeking treatment out of state and plans to continue treatment when he returns to Wisconsin. He apologized to his wife, son and the remainder of his family “for the embarrassment and shame I have caused.”
“They remain supportive of my efforts to seek professional help and I will be a better person as a result,” he said.
At a news conference he called last month after the reports became public, Kratz said he began psychotherapy after Van Groll brought the text messages to police in October. He hasn’t detailed the issue for which he’s undergone treatment.
Kratz suggests his resignation from the district attorney’s office isn’t an end to his work in the courtroom.
“I hope to repair my reputation and resume my legal career,” he said.
Kratz’s resignation may not be the final chapter in the controversy.
The Office of Lawyer Regulation, under tremendous pressure after telling Van Groll in March that the messages weren’t sufficient to warrant an investigation into whether Kratz committed “professional misconduct,” has since reopened its file, citing “substantial new information” that shows the texts were part of a larger pattern of conduct.
Kratz almost certainly was going to lose his job whether he resigned or not. Had he not, a hearing would have been held in Chilton on Friday to determine whether misconduct warranted removal from office, and Doyle would have made the call considering the findings at the hearing.
Kratz had served as district attorney in Calumet County for 18 years. He was appointed in 1992 by Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Doyle issued a statement today regarding the resignation.
“Every victim of a crime, particularly sensitive crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, has the right to be treated with respect and dignity,” Doyle wrote.
“Ken Kratz egregiously violated that basic right and therefore cannot hold the office of district attorney. As a former district attorney and attorney general, I was appalled when I first learned of his behavior. I am deeply grateful to the brave women who stepped forward.”
Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs issued a statement today saying its efforts will now turn to reassuring women they can have faith working with prosecutors in Calumet County even in sensitive situations like domestic violence cases.
“Mr. Kratz’s resignation is a bit overdue, but certainly welcome news for victims in Calumet County,” executive director Beth Schnorr said. “His stepping down is a necessary piece in restoring the integrity of the district attorney’s office in Calumet County.”