Wisconsin Prosecutor Quits after 'Sexting' Abuse Victim

October 4, 2010 - 4:35 PM

Calumet County, District Attorney Kenneth Kratz

This March 2007 file photo shows Calumet County District Attorney Kenneth Kratz giving his closing argument in the Steven Avery trial in the courtroom in Chilton, Wis. Police say Kratz sent repeated text messages trying to spark an affair with a domestic abuse victim while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

(AP) - An embattled Wisconsin prosecutor who tried to spark an affair with a domestic violence victim resigned in disgrace Monday.

Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz said in a statement to the media that he has lost the confidence of the people he represents, "primarily due to personal issues which have now affected my professional career."

Kratz said he is receiving treatment for "these conditions" outside Wisconsin, but did not elaborate. He said he hopes to repair his reputation and practice law in the future. He also apologized to his family for the "embarrassment and shame" he has caused them.

"They remain supportive of my efforts to seek professional help, and I will be a better person as a result," the statement said.

The Associated Press reported last month that Kratz sent 30 text messages to 26-year-old domestic abuse victim Stephanie Van Groll while he prosecuted her ex-boyfriend on a strangulation charge. The 50-year-old Kratz called the woman a "hot nymph" and asked if she would enjoy secret contact with a married district attorney.

Van Groll's attorney, Michael Fox, didn't immediately return a message on Monday.

Several other women have come forward with accusations Kratz used his position to try to start relationships with them since the AP reported the text messages. One of them, Oklahoma City University law student Maria Ruskiewicz, said Kratz sent her racy text messages after he agreed to help her secure a gubernatorial pardon for a drug conviction she got as a teenager. She got her pardon in August.

Ruskiewicz said in an e-mail to the AP on Monday that Kratz said "I" nine times, "my" eight times and "me" once in his statement, showing he was concerned only about himself.

"His letter clearly states his goals _ protect his reputation and career, not to apologize sincerely," Ruskiewicz wrote.

The state Justice Department removed Kratz from Van Groll's case after she complained to police about his texts. The agency found he didn't do anything illegal, but still pressured him to resign as chairman of the Wisconsin Crime Victims' Rights Board, a position he had for more than a decade. Kratz stepped down in December.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation, which oversees lawyer conduct, office quietly closed the case against Kratz in March without a formal review, saying his behavior was inappropriate but didn't appear to be an ethical violation.

The office reoponed the case last month, though, bowing to intense public pressure following the AP's stories.

The crime victims board, which investigates and sanctions public officials who violate crime victim laws, also has faced intense questions about why it didn't discipline Kratz.

Kratz has said he was candid with the board about the messages, but members said he was vague and they never received a complaint from an involved party.

Gov. Jim Doyle began working to remove Kratz from office a little less than two weeks ago. Kratz's attorney said last week he would resign before Friday.

Doyle issued a statement on Monday saying Kratz's actions "appalled" him.

"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. Ken Kratz egregiously violated that basic right and therefore cannot hold the office of district attorney," the statement said.

Kratz has served as Calumet County's district attorney since 1992. He was best known for convicting Steven Avery in 2007 in a photographer's death. The case got national attention because Avery committed the homicide shortly after he was freed from prison, where he spent 18 years for a rape he didn't commit.

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Associated Press writer Ryan J. Foley in Madison contributed to this report.