- Associated Press - Monday, October 4, 2010

MADISON, Wis. (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.”

Mr. Kratz said he is receiving treatment for “these conditions” outside Wisconsin, but he 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 Mr. Kratz sent 30 text messages to a 26-year-old domestic abuse victim while he prosecuted her ex-boyfriend on a strangulation charge. The 50-year-old Mr. Kratz called the woman a “hot nymph” and asked if she would enjoy secret contact with a married district attorney.

The woman, Stephanie Van Groll, complained to police about the harassment, and Mr. Kratz was removed from the case. Ms. Van Groll’s attorney, Michael Fox, didn’t immediately return a message on Monday.

After the AP reported the text messages, several other women came forward with accusations that Mr. Kratz used his position to try to start relationships with them 

The state Justice Department investigated Mr. Kratz but found the text messages were not illegal. The state Office of Lawyer Regulation closed the case against Mr. Kratz in March without a formal review. The office last month reopened the case, though, amid a barrage of criticism against Mr. Kratz following the AP’s stories.

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

Mr. Doyle issued a statement on Monday saying Mr. 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.

Until now, Mr. Kratz 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.

Mr. Kratz was a longtime chairman of the Wisconsin Crime Victims’ Rights Board, which investigates and sanctions public officials who violate crime victims’ rights. Mr. Kratz resigned the leadership post in December under pressure from state officials.

The board has taken criticism for not taking action against him. Mr. Kratz has said he was candid with the board, but the board counters the information he supplied was vague and he described the messages as mutually friendly.

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

 

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