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Legal Ethics

DA Who Texted Abuse Victim Takes Leave; Gov Seeks His Removal, Citing Claimed Autopsy Date Request

Posted Sep 20, 2010 1:39 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: A Wisconsin prosecutor who admittedly sent 30 texts to a victim in a domestic violence case seeking a sexual relationship but says that shouldn't prevent him from keeping his job allegedly told her, just before the chain of comments began, that he might reduce the felony charge against the defendant to a misdemeanor.

In response, Stephanie Van Groll told investigators, she told Calumet City District Attorney Ken Kratz that the strangulation her ex-boyfriend is claimed to have committed is a felony. Kratz then allegedly began sending her the text messages within minutes after she left his office, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Kratz, who announced today that he is going on a medical leave, has said he does not intend to resign.

His lawyer, Robert Craanen, initially could not be reached by the Tribune for comment but said later that Kratz's admitted mistake was less serious than misconduct related to evidence-withholding by other DAs who retained their jobs.

"This is just a really inappropriately bad mistake by this DA after many years of commitment to the community," said Craanen, citing his client's 25-year career. "It's got nothing to do with evidence, with misdoing, he was never charged with anything. ... He's the first to admit this was quite a mistake, but it shouldn't really define his career. And he's been a great DA."

An attorney who apparently is not involved in his case told a local ABC affiliate earlier that Kratz did not appear to have violated any specific legal ethics rule. She also said he did not transgress concerning an ethics rule that prohibits sex with clients, since the state of Wisconsin rather than the abuse victim was the client in the case Kratz was prosecuting, reports WXOW.

However, the Wisconsin governor, Jim Doyle, virtually asked for a complaint from a local taxpayer. He said at a news conference today that he would initiate a public hearing to determine whether to remove Kratz from office as soon as he gets one, as state law requires prior to a removal hearing, reports the Associated Press.

"It troubles me deeply that somebody turns to the criminal justice system for help and receives the kinds of texts we have seen," said Doyle, who himself is a former prosecutor. "We will proceed very, very quickly."

In addition to Kratz's conduct concerning the domestic abuse victim, Doyle said he was troubled by a second woman's claim, in a letter, that the DA had revealed confidential information about an ongoing investigation and invited her to attend a woman's autopsy "provided I would be his girlfriend and would wear high heels and a skirt," the Tribune reports. The second woman met Kratz via an online dating site.

An earlier ABAJournal.com post provides additional details:

DA Sexts Domestic Abuse Victim, Informs Her ‘I am the Prize'

Last updated at 8:20 p.m. to include subsequent Associated Press article about Doyle's statements, WXOW coverage and new information from updated Chicago Tribune article.

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