Wisconsin DA. Accused of Sexual Harassment to Resign, Lawyer Says

At least three women came forward to accuse Ken Kratz of sexual harassment.

ByABC News
September 20, 2010, 5:07 PM

Sept. 27, 2010 — -- The Wisconsin district attorney accused of "sexting" women involved in cases he was prosecuting, including one alleged domestic violence victim, will resign from office, the attorney's lawyer said today.

Calumet Country DA Ken Kratz had fought pressure to resign for two weeks since the allegations were first made public but decided to step down before the Oct. 8 court hearing that could have forced his removal, Kratz's attorney Robert Craanen told reporters after he met with his client at a Wisconsin courthouse, according to The Associated Press.

The first of what would become five accusations against Kratz came to light Sept. 15 when the AP published several text messages from Kratz to Stephanie Van Groll, the victim in 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, 50, admitted to texting Van Groll and offered his "sincere and heartfelt apology" at a news conference days after the news broke. 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 last week he'd gone on leave. Craanen did not immediately return requests for comment on the report.

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

A few days later, a third woman came forward to claim she, too, had been harassed via text message by Kratz.

Maria Ruskiewicz told the AP she met Kratz in 2008 about a previous drug case. Ruskiewicz said that after she left the meeting, she received several texts from Kratz that escalated into sexual harassment.

"The reason ... 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 last week.

In the week that followed, another two women leveled similar accusations, ABC New's Wisconsin affiliate WBAY reported.

Craanen denied to the AP the second woman's claim about the autopsy date.

Doyle, the governor, a former district attorney and state attorney general, began proceedings last week to investigate the official complaints, a process that could have concluded with Kratz's forcible removal.

"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" last week.

The investigation into Kratz's alleged harassment will continue whether he is in office, one investigator told WBAY.

"The announcement that Ken Kratz will resign will have no bearing on their investigation," Keith Sellen, director of Wisconsin's Office of Lawyer Regulation, said. "It will continue to its conclusion, as announced last week, and regardless of whether or not he resigns or surrenders his law license."