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DOJ investigated, cleared Kratz without interview

DOJ investigated, cleared Kratz without interview

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The Wisconsin Department of Justice closed its investigation into Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz's sexually charged text messages to a crime victim without interviewing Kratz, according to records of the investigation made public Friday.

DOJ executive assistant Dean Stensberg said his agency's investigation was "absolutely" thorough. He said agents collected all the evidence they needed to determine that a crime had not been committed.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has been highly critical of the Office of Lawyer Regulation for declining to investigate possible ethical violations by the 50-year-old prosecutor, who tried to spark a relationship with a woman whose ex-boyfriend Kratz was prosecuting for strangling her.

OLR announced Friday it was reopening the case against Kratz, whom the victim accused of "harassing" her with 30 messages over three days late last October. Two other women have made public what they describe as similar treatment by the Republican district attorney, who started a medical leave this week.

"Because the OLR has received substantial new information, particularly information related to what may be a pattern of conduct, the OLR will investigate all the allegations that have been made against District Atty. Kratz, including the allegations made by the grievant," executive director Keith Sellen said in a statement Friday.

Van Hollen also has been appointed to handle the investigation that could lead to Kratz's removal from office by Gov. Jim Doyle.

Last year, Van Hollen's Division of Criminal Investigation closed its case against Kratz days after it began, records show. The probe consisted of interviewing the victim, reviewing text messages and collecting Kaukauna police reports.

Stephanie Van Groll told police Kratz was harassing her by calling her a "hot nymph" and questioning her self-esteem when she failed to respond positively to his advances. Kratz and his third wife filed for divorce Dec. 15.

During the interview with two Division of Criminal Investigation agents, Van Groll said that in her first meeting with Kratz, he asked if she minded if he reduced the charge against her ex-boyfriend from a felony to a misdemeanor. In a hand-written complaint to Kaukauna police, Van Groll said, "I'm afraid that if I don't do what he (Kratz) wants me to do he will throw out my whole case, and who knows what else."

Stensberg said it wasn't necessary to interview Kratz because "The sum of his (Kratz's) contact with her (Van Groll) was through those text messages."

According to the investigative records, a DOJ agent spoke with Kratz on Nov. 2 after Kratz called to see whether he was still under suspicion. Pete Thelen, special agent in charge of the Division of Criminal Investigation's Appleton office, told Kratz the probe had already ended.

At the time of DOJ's investigation, Kratz was chairman of the Crime Victims Rights Board. It handles complaints from people dissatisfied with DOJ's Office of Crime Victim Services, which mediates complaints between victims and witnesses who believe they've been mistreated by law enforcement officials.

Kratz resigned from the board in a Dec. 3 closed-door session under pressure from DOJ. Both the board and DOJ enforce the so-called crime victims bill of rights, which is designed to "ensure that all victims and witnesses of crime are treated with dignity, respect, courtesy and sensitivity."

Board attorney Bruce Olsen said Friday that from what he's heard of Kratz's behavior, it "may not fall under the (crime victims) statutes."

The agency also directed Kratz to report his behavior to the Office of Lawyer Regulation, and it took over prosecution of the case against Van Groll's ex-boyfriend.

In his Dec. 4 self-referral to OLR, Kratz said that during the closed session, "I candidly described my communication with this crime victim, and resigned under a cloud of shame and humiliation." Kratz denied violating any ethical rules or the crime-victims law and said he was undergoing psychotherapy.

Weeks later, Kratz tried to strike up a relationship with Dawn King, a woman he met through an online dating service. In a letter to Doyle, King said she had one dinner date with Kratz on Jan. 23. A few days later, she said he invited her to the autopsy of a murder victim "provided I would be his girlfriend and wear high heels and a skirt." Through his attorney, Kratz has called that allegation "ridiculous."

At its meeting Friday, the Crime Victim Rights Board declined to discuss Kratz's resignation or the closed-door session, saying it wasn't on the agenda. Olsen said he's not aware of any complaints filed with the board against Kratz. The panel has handled 36 complaints since it began hearing them in 1998, board staff member Julie Braun said.



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A state board meant to protect crime victims says its former chairman downplayed the nature of text messages he sent a woman before he resigned last December. The Wisconsin Crime Victims' Rights Board issued a statement Wednesday saying Ken Kratz downplayed the severity of his conduct related to sexually harassing text messages sent to Stephanie Van Groll.

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