Calumet County, WI, Prosecutor Ken Kratz announced his resignation. He was under attack for using his office to coerce victims and other citizens into sexual liaisons.
In November, 2009, a witness in a criminal case reported to the police that Calumet County District Attorney Kratz had been harassing her with text messages. The witness was also the victim in a case that Kratz was prosecuting.
There were thirty text messages from Kratz to Stephanie Van Groll on her cell phone. These messages suggested that Van Groll could be his mistress. He reminded her that he had to power and the wealth. She was merely a “tall, young, hot nymph.” His communications have been labeled as sexting.
Kratz managed to convince the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) that he would self-report to the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and resign as chairman on the Crime Victims Rights Board (CVRB). Kratz suggested that the DOJ would not publicize the matter and the DOJ complied.
The DOJ did not scrutinize Kratz’s report to the OLR or his verbiage when he resigned from the CVRB.
For almost a year, Kratz was untouched by consequences. In September, 2010, a whistleblower alerted the Associated Press and his fat was in the fire.
At a press conference on 15 September, 2010, Kratz minimized the nature of the messages he sent to Van Groll. He emphatically stated that he did not intend to resign. He was deluded.
A whole bunch of stuff hit the fan. It all ended up on Prosecutor Kratz. There were calls for his resignation. One letter demanding he quit came from his fellow district attorneys. Governor Jim Doyle jumped in to get Kratz booted from office.
Kratz issued a press release on 4 October, 2010 stating he has resigned. Governor Jim Doyle issued a press release on the resignation. Both releases are self-serving and miss the point.
A press release stating resignation is not official. A letter to the Governor is. The letter has not been released.
Kratz’s PR is interesting because of misleading information. He offers, “a sincere apology to my wife, son â€¦” A joint divorce petition with his current wife is still active. That petition was filed on 15 December, 2009. There are no children from that marriage. Does he have an estranged wife who is as supportive as he claims, “They remain supportive â€¦”? His son is from a previous marriage and juxtaposition of wife and son can lead people to believe that his family situation is different from reality.
Kratz also apologized to the citizens of Calumet County and touted his eighteen years in the office of District Attorney.
Kratz did not mention the individuals he tried to seduce although there may be sound legal reasons for not doing so. Kratz did not apologize to his fellow district attorneys for undermining the faith and trust of a naive public.
In the PR, Ken Kratz said he was in an out of state treatment facility and plans on returning to practice law. He didn’t say whether he plans on becoming a prosecutor again. Maybe he’ll have an epiphany and return as a defense attorney.
Governor Jim Doyle’s PR was interesting. First, he stated how he was appalled when the matter saw the light of day. He said that he will refer information he has received about Kratz to determine whether any criminal activity occurred to the DOJ.
He questioned why the matter was not referred to the CVRB and gave himself credit for the creation of the board.
But, Doyle shows that he doesn’t know how the CVRB operates. A victim cannot file a complaint with the board. A victim referral must come from within the DOJ. The board “is not a victim advocacy board” as stated on one of the DOJ web pages devoted to the operation of the CVRB. To complicate things, the DOJ suggests that a victim might want an attorney to help since the victim must provide evidence of a rights violation.(1)
The CVRB is not user-friendly and it is not widely known to exist. Doyle stated in his PR that, “A crime victim who believes their crime victimâ€™s rights have been violated can file an anonymous complaint with the Board.” It ain’t gonna happen. An informal complaint must first be filed with the DOJ and DOJ will determine if further action is warranted. It is the DOJ that makes the referral, not the victim.
The official position is, “The Crime Victims Rights Board will only address complaints in which a violation of a victim’s right may have occurred and only after the Department has completed the informal process.”(2) There is no anonymity in the process and the CVRB does not accept direct complaints from citizens.
With the Van Groll criminal complaint, the DOJ was the investigative agency. Was the DOJ forbidden from forwarding a complaint on behalf of Van Groll to the CVRB?
Doyle joined the DOJ in blaming the OLR for not taking Kratz to task. But, the complaint that Kratz gave to the OLR was not truthful. Had, the DOJ done its job, a somewhat different picture would have emerged and the OLR intake investigator would have had a better basis for proceeding. Neither Governor Doyle nor Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has been candid about the shortcomings of the DOJ regarding Ken Kratz.
Doyle stated his history as district attorney and Wisconsin Attorney General. He said how as governor he was all for the victim. But, this was posturing. The fast tracking that Doyle engaged in to remove an elected official has not happened in cases where a district attorney engaged in even more egregious behavior. And, there are many such incidents.(3) Publicity played a big role in the good Governor’s behavior.
In the end, it is good that Kratz resigned. I think disbarment would be justified. But, the other parties involved need to be scrutinized. Judges allowed his bullying courtroom tactics and overlooked very bad behavior. The local news reporters glorified him and were blind to his manipulations and dishonesty. John Lee of the Post~Crescent gushed over his conviction no matter what attitude. The DOJ still minimizes its role in the lack of stern treatment for a lawyer gone bad. The legislature has given far too much power to Wisconsin district attorneys and far too little accountability.
No matter what happens to Kratz, bad actors will remain. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen will blame the OLR for the lack of follow-up in the DOJ.
Governor Doyle will present himself as an advocate of victims; which means only the publicized ones. It is likely that he will continue to put out bad information on what victims rights really are. And he will continue to ignore those who are falsely convicted and imprisoned. Victims of prosecutors like Kratz.
Some of our legislators are pointing fingers (often in the wrong direction) and demanding answers. But, the legislature could clean up the mess and prevent future prosecutor bad actors. Unfortunately, our legislators lack the courage and the intellect to do the right things.
in category Prosecutor Ken Kratz Scandal