Ex-Wis. prosecutor won't face charges over sexting

AP News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2011 6:16 PM
Ex-Wis. prosecutor won't face charges over sexting

A former prosecutor who sent racy text messages to a domestic abuse victim won't face criminal charges over misconduct and sexual assault allegations, the Wisconsin Justice Department announced Monday.

State investigators reviewed more than a dozen complaints against former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz. They concluded he acted inappropriately but didn't commit any crimes, said Assistant Attorney General Tom Storm, who led the investigation.

Kratz's attorney, Robert Bellin, said his office was investigating whether anyone lied in an effort to hurt Kratz.

"I think it's obviously the right decision," Bellin said of not filing charges. "I don't think we were that worried about it. We think that there were statements from individuals who came forward who were not completely truthful."

Kratz did not immediately return an email or a voicemail left at his private law firm's office.

Kratz resigned from his $105,000 per year position in October after The Associated Press reported he had sent 30 text messages trying to strike up an affair with a domestic abuse victim while he prosecuted her ex-boyfriend on a strangulation charge. Kratz, who was 50 at the time, called 26-year-old Stephanie Van Groll "a hot nymph" and asked if she was "the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married DA."

Van Groll complained to police and Kratz was removed from her ex-boyfriend's case. The Justice Department investigated at the time but decided not to file charges. Kratz was instead ordered to self-report the text messages to the Office of Lawyer Regulation, a separate state entity that reviews attorneys' conduct. The office declined to discipline Kratz, saying he hadn't violated any rules.

Pressure mounted on Kratz to resign after Van Groll's allegations became public. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle began removal procedures and other women came forward with accusations. The Justice Department and the lawyer regulation office both reopened investigations.

The Justice Department on Monday released reports documenting about 20 complaints the agency received after it reopened its probe.

One woman claimed while Kratz was handling a domestic abuse case against her husband in 1999, he came to her house and started caressing her while they sat on her couch before being interrupted by a call from his girlfriend. Storm wrote the statute of limitations had expired on the incident.

Kratz also was accused of offering to help one woman win a gubernatorial pardon in exchange for a relationship. Another accused him of offering to help her write a victim impact statement against her husband in an abuse case in exchange for sex. She told investigators she thought Kratz was a "predator."

A Calumet County social worker told investigators that Kratz made a lewd remark about oral sex to her during a break in a 2009 parental rights trial. Another social worker said Kratz tried to flirt with her via email and commented in court about a reporter's breasts.

"If anyone talked to him about anything beyond the professional, he thought it opened the door for him," that social worker said.

But agents found no evidence Kratz did anything illegal. Storm wrote that nothing indicates Kratz failed to perform his duties, tried to obtain a dishonest advantage or did anything that exceeded his authority.

"There is no reasonable possibility that further investigation will reveal evidence establishing the elements of a criminal offense," Storm wrote. "There are no further leads to pursue and the file should be closed."

Justice Department spokesman Bill Cosh said the reports have been forwarded to the Office of Lawyer Regulation. That agency's director, Keith Sellen, said his investigation is ongoing. The office could decide to revoke or suspend Kratz's law license.

Van Groll, meanwhile, has filed a federal civil lawsuit accusing Kratz of sexual harassment. Van Groll's attorney, Michael Fox, said in an email he didn't expect any criminal prosecution but is anxious to see the entire case file now that the investigation is closed.

Kratz gained notoriety for winning the 2007 conviction of Steven Avery in the death of a photographer. The case got national attention because Avery committed the murder after he was freed from prison for a rape he didn't commit.

Kratz also was the longtime chairman of the Wisconsin Crime Victims Rights Board, which investigates and sanctions public officials who violate crime victims' rights. He stepped down from the post in December 2009 under pressure from state officials.