Convoluted Brian

the weBlog of Brian McCorkle

The Importance of Understanding

The Crime Victims Rights Board Boondoggle

The Ken Kratz scandal broke in September 2010 thanks to an anonymous whistleblower. In November, 2009, the Kaukauna, WI, police department received a complaint that Calumet Count District Attorney Ken Kratz was harassing Stephanie Van Groll who was both victim and witness a case he was prosecuting.

The police turned the case over to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) because of conflict of interest. Evidence included text messages, many of which have been termed sexting.

Kratz was chairman of the Wisconsin Crime Victims Rights Board (CVRB). During a series of email exchanges with the DOJ Kratz was informed that he either inform the CVRB of his attempts to seduce the victim or the DOJ would be duty bound to report. After whining and cajoling, Kratz agreed to resign from the board.

The CVRB was created by the Wisconsin Legislature to “review and investigate complaints filed by victims of crime regarding their crime victim rights.” The board consists of appointed members and is a part of the DOJ. The board is a quasi‑legal agency which means that it can act as a fact finder and court. It can issue rulings that will be binding unless appealed. The ruling can include forfeitures up to $1000.00. The burden of proof is upon the complainant.

The annual number of cases filed with the board has varied from zero in 2002 to eight in 2006.

Investigators, attorneys, and staff are provided by the DOJ. The compensation for board members is not stated on the DOJ website.

Kratz gave a verbal account to the CVRB on 3 December, 2009. According to a release by the CVRB dated 29 September, 2010, Kratz was not honest about his communications with Van Groll. He carefully worded his statements to make the text messages between the parties to appear agreeable to both sides and mischaracterized the victim’s responses.

“He indicated there were approximately as many texts sent to him by the victim of crime as he sent to her and he characterized the content of those communications as being of a mutually friendly nature.”

Kratz also expressed outrage that the DOJ was excluding him from future training actives. He also stated that the DOJ was pushing him to resign from the board.

Kratz misled the CVRB members. There is no disputing that and such behavior is consistent with his statements to the DOJ and Office of Lawyer Regulation. I have questioned his honesty for many years, and the deception Kratz practiced with the CVRB is no surprise.

But, I think the members of the board should have done more.

The CVRB overlooked the impact that even a consensual romantic communication between Kratz and a witness (who was also the victim) could have on a successful prosecution. The CVRB ignored the fact that Kratz was using the power of his office to facilitate a “friendship” with a person and that justice requires an impartial relationship to keep the system from further corruption.

This also raises a problem that if Van Groll had been aware of the CVRB and filed a complaint, Kratz would have been in a position to shunt the complaint into a dusty corner.

There was no complaint, so the CVRB could not take any action against the chairman of the board. But, a simple press release stating Kratz’s resignation and the reasons he gave would have been appropriate.

I suspect if the hue and cry had not been so widespread that the CVRB would have remained quiet about the situation.

I do question the value of the CVRB though. It consumes resources, the amount of which is unclear, but still the DOJ does fund its activities. The CVRB has not handled very many cases since its creation in 1999. The number of cases is thirty‑four which works out to less than 3.4 cases per year.

The purpose of the board is not widely known. Some victims have been able to file complaints, but I doubt that the purpose is clearly posted in Wisconsin courthouses. And, the probability that a complainant will need an attorney to help draft the complaint is a further bar to usefulness of this board.

The Wisconsin Legislature created the CVRB. The Wisconsin Legislature should disband it.

by Brian McCorkle
posted on 1 October, 2010 at 21:22 pm
in category Prosecutor Ken Kratz Scandal

The Wisconsin Crime Victims Rights Board has come under fire for its reticence in the District Attorney Ken Kratz sexting scandal. While Kratz was dishonest with the board about his activities, the board still could have done more with his resignation. But, another issue emerges. Does the Crime Victims Rights Board have any value?



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