Sept. 20, 2010 — -- The Wisconsin prosecutor who admits sending dozens of racy text messages to a domestic violence victim with whom he was hoping to start an affair went on "medical leave" today, as the governor of his state pledged to move forward "very, very swiftly" with proceedings to remove him from office.
The office of Calumet County District Attorney Kenneth R. Kratz announced his departure from his daily duties in a news release Monday, saying the nine-term elected prosecutor would be away from work for an undetermined period of time.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a former district attorney and state attorney general, says he will start proceedings to remove Kratz from office as soon as a "verified complaint" is filed by a county taxpayer, as required by law.
Pressure on Kratz to resign has grown daily since The Associated Press first reported last week that he sent more than two dozen text messages last year to a 26-year-old woman whose boyfriend he had been prosecuting for allegedly trying to strangle her.
Stephanie Van Groll went to police after receiving the messages from Kratz, 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 D.A."
"It troubles me deeply that somebody turns to the criminal justice system for help and receives the kinds of texts that we have seen," Doyle told reporters in Madison, Wis., on Monday.
While deflecting calls to resign, Kratz offered his "sincere and heartfelt apology" at a news conference Friday, during which he said he had already begun psychotherapy to address the "selfishness" and "arrogance" that led to him contact the woman.
"My behavior was inappropriate," Kratz said. "I'm embarrassed and ashamed for the choices that I made and the fault was mine alone."
Van Groll told state investigators that the first text message from Kratz came ten minutes after she 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."
Also on Monday, Doyle's office said another woman accused Kratz of making advances by inviting her to view the autopsy of a murder victim.
In an e-mail written to the governor last week, the woman claimed to have met Kratz online in December 2009. On a dinner date, the woman says Kratz divulged to her the details of an ongoing murder investigation, in which a woman was believed to have been killed by her boyfriend.
The woman said Kratz sent her repeated text messages over the next few days with updates on the case, eventually inviting her to attend the autopsy.
Calls to Kratz's newly-hired attorney, Robert J. Craanen, were not returned. But Craanen told the AP on Monday that he would fight attempts by Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle 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, like 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.