Third Woman Accuses Wisconsin DA of 'Sexting' Harassment

Top prosector goes on leave as governor begins removal process.

September 20, 2010, 5:07 PM

Sept. 21, 2010 — -- A third woman has come forward to claim she was harassed via text message by a Wisconsin prosecutor who has already come under fire for allegedly sending sexually charged messages to two other women on separate occasions, ABC News has confirmed.

Maria Ruskiewicz told The Associated Press she met Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz in 2008 about a previous drug case. Ruskiewicz said after she left the meeting, she received several texts from Kratz that escalated into sexual harassment.

"The reason why I'm coming forward is he abuses his power, not only with women, but with women in certain situations who are extremely vulnerable to his authority," Ruskiewicz, 31, an Appleton, Wis., native, told The Associated Press.

The first accusation against Kratz came to light last week when the AP published several text messages from Kratz to Stephanie Van Groll, the victim of a domestic violence case Kratz was trying in the fall of 2009. Van Groll, 26, went to police after she received the texts from Kratz, messages in which he called her a "tall, young, hot nymph" and asked whether she is "the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA."

Kratz admitted to texting Van Groll and offered his "sincere and heartfelt apology" at a news conference Friday. He also said he had already begun psychotherapy to address the "selfishness" and "arrogance" that led to him contact Van Groll.

"My behavior was inappropriate," Kratz said. "I'm embarrassed and ashamed for the choices that I made, and the fault was mine alone."

Kratz's office announced Monday he'd gone on leave.

Adding to Kratz's woes, a second woman came forward Monday to claim similar harassment, saying Kratz had offered to let her attend an autopsy. In an e-mail written to Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle last week, the woman claimed to have met Kratz online in December 2009. On a dinner date, the woman said Kratz divulged to her the details of an ongoing murder investigation in which a woman was believed to have been killed by her boyfriend.

Kratz's recently hired attorney, Robert J. Craanen, did not return calls for comment on the most recent accusation, but Craanen did deny to the AP the second woman's claim about the autopsy date.

Doyle, the governor, a former district attorney and state attorney general, said Monday he would start proceedings to remove Kratz from office as soon as a "verified complaint" is filed by a county taxpayer, as required by law.

In an appearance on "Good Morning America," Doyle said he would "commence the removal process" but did not say what the outcome would be.

"My reaction was the same as everyone who has worked on these issues over the years that this is just a terrible violation of trust," he said on "GMA."

DA Sends 30 Texts to Domestic Violence Victim

Van Groll told state investigators that the first text message from Kratz came 10 minutes after she'd left his office in October 2009, following a meeting at which she detailed the abuse that her boyfriend had inflicted.

Over two days, 29 more messages from Kratz followed, increasing in suggestiveness and at times taking a threatening tone.

Investigators reported that Van Groll felt "afraid that if she doesn't do what he wants, Kratz will throw out her whole case."

Craanen told the AP Monday that he would fight attempts by the Wisconsin governor to remove his client from office, arguing that other district attorneys have done worse and kept their jobs.

The Wisconsin state constitution allows the governor to remove certain county elected officials, such as district attorneys, provided they are given "a copy of the charges and an opportunity of being heard."

Ken Streit, a clinical associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, told ABC News that he would be surprised if Doyle were to assert his constitutional authority to remove Kratz.

"Not to say in any way, at all, that I condone what Kratz did, but there could be a lot worse circumstances of a guy actually committing a crime, or being involved in a fraud of the prosecution itself," Streit said.

The Wisconsin District Attorneys Association and several domestic violence advocates have urged Kratz to step down voluntarily.