Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for September 17th, 2010

Calumet County (WI) DA Ken Kratz — one of the World’s Worst People.

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Wisconsin’s District Attorney of Calumet County, Ken Kratz, must be one of the world’s worst people.  He sexually harassed a victim by sending her text messages showing his sexual interest in her — mind you, doing this to a young woman who’d sought help from his office due to being physically abused by her ex-boyfriend — and believes he has done nothing “ethically wrong.”

How he can live with himself after sending these racy texts — one of which called this poor abused woman a “hot, young nymph” — I just don’t know.

Read the initial story at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel here:

A few relevant quotes:

According to the police report, Kratz, 50, began sending text messages to Stephanie L. Van Groll, 26, after she met with him Oct. 20 regarding domestic abuse charges that had been filed against her ex-boyfriend. Van Groll reported the text messages to Kaukauna police two days later.

Kratz wrote in his first text that it was nice talking with Van Groll and that she should feel free to text him between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to copies of the messages included in the police report.

“You have such potential,” Kratz wrote in the initial text message. “See ya. KEN (your favorite DA).”

Van Groll thanked Kratz in a reply text message, but he continued texting her, sending 30 messages over three days, according to the report.

Yet Kratz did not quit — here’s one of his racy text messages to Van Groll:

“Im serious!” Kratz wrote in another text. “Im the atty. I have the $350,000 house. I have the 6-figure career. You may be the tall, young, hot nymph, but I am the prize!”

Listen.  This is so wrong — so very, very, very wrong — that I have a hard time containing my disbelief and anger.

First off, the way Kratz has handled this has been plain, flat wrong.  Yesterday he confronted a Journal-Sentinel reporter and was abusive over the invasion of Kratz’s privacy — and today, all he did was to read a prepared statement saying he was “willing to seek counseling” (I heard the statement on WTMJ-Radio, AM 620 in Milwaukee, WI) and that he didn’t do anything wrong — but that he felt it was “inappropriate” and “disrespectful.”

Not strong enough, Mr. Kratz.  And not nearly enough for Wisconsin’s victim advocates, who are calling for Kratz’s removal as DA (since Kratz defiantly said today he “will not step down” but only may seek some “personal time off.”)

Here’s a link to one article about that:

This article is important, because in it, you see that the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, American Indians Against Abuse and victim advocates statewide — all of them —  released this joint statement in reaction to Kratz’s abhorrent behavior:

Since Ken Kratz’s sexual harassment of a domestic violence victim has come to the public’s attention, he has had the opportunity to acknowledge and take responsibility for the full impact of his actions. He has failed to do so and must resign.

Absolutely!  But I’m going to keep posting their statement, which is lengthy, with my commentary in between.

Going on:

In his public statement, Kratz said his sexual harassment was a ‘lapse of judgment’. Rather, his conduct and failure to take responsibility show a lack of character.

Once again, absolutely!  I can’t think of a worse example of a public servant anywhere, because Kratz was elected to the position of District Attorney, not appointed.  Remember, he was elected — which is why I put this in “United States politics” as one of my categories for this blog.

Going on:

As former chairperson of the Crime Victim Rights Board, Kratz knew that subjecting a domestic violence victim to unwanted sexual advances violated the Wisconsin state constitution’s guarantee that crime victims should be treated with fairness, dignity and respect for their privacy. Moreover, once his misdeeds came to light, he should have understood the real issue—victims in his community will have legitimate concerns in coming forward to report abuse.


Now, do you see what the problem is with Kratz’s behavior?   Kratz knew exactly what he was doing — and he didn’t care.  Appalling!

And Kratz can’t try to tell me he didn’t understand the implication of his actions, because he’s a lawyer who’s worked on behalf of victim rights’ advocates for a long, long time.  (He had to resign from a victim’s rights board over this — and rightfully so.)

Going on, and talking specifically about Kratz’s resignation from the board:

Instead, he has attempted to minimize and mislead. Kratz said that stepping down from the Crime Victim Rights Board was a ‘self-imposed sanction’. This is not true. It is clear from released email correspondences that the Wisconsin Department of Justice required Kratz to resign as a condition of not disclosing the victim’s complaint.

Why am I unsurprised?

Going on:

His mishandling of this incident is consistent with his authorship of the appalling text messages. In both instances, he has shown an entitlement to his own position and power and a willingness to manipulate others for personal gain.

That’s for sure.

Going on — note that I broke the paragraph, not the various organizations who wrote this condemnatory and effective press release:

About one year ago, Kratz wrote to a battered and bruised strangulation victim, “I’m the atty. I have the $350,000 house. I have the 6-figure career. You may be the tall, young, hot nymph, but I am the prize!” He further demonstrated his willingness to emotionally exploit the victim by writing, “Hey..Miss Communication, what’s with the sticking point? Your low self-esteem and you fear you can’t successfully play in my big sandbox?” Later when authorities investigated the victim’s complaint, Kratz pressured investigators to not pursue the matter, characterized these messages as compliments and expressed concern only for his ‘reputational interests.’ Now, he feels he owes victims and citizens no further comment or explanation.

I’d call Kratz a Neanderthal, but that’s insulting the poor Neanderthals, who didn’t do anything to anyone — and couldn’t help what they were, for that matter.  (Innocent savages, mostly.)

This guy, Kratz, is a man who has abused his position for attempted gain at absolute best.  But in the process, he sexually abused and harassed this poor woman, Ms. Van Groll, which makes his offense a thousand times worse.  That it apparently is not illegal is no excuse — it is immoral, and is shockingly bad conduct.

And I know if I were living in Calumet County, I would already be starting to find out how quickly this guy could be recalled.  Because as he was elected, he should also be able to recalled if he refuses to step down — as so far, he has refused. 

Remember, Kratz did all this last year, in 2009.  He’s known about this for a year and done diddly-squat.  So it’s obvious he won’t go on his own.

Now, I heard Kratz’s press conference, carried live on WTMJ Radio — and I was quite displeased by it.  Seeking counseling is not enough, and saying it was “inappropriate” and “disrespectful” is also not nearly enough.

I am with these victim advocates, who conclude their statement with the following:

As Ms. Van Groll’s case demonstrates, domestic violence is a matter of life and death. 67 people died in Wisconsin last year during domestic violence incidents. A victim’s confidence in the system can make all the difference in whether he or she gets help and safety or becomes a murder victim. Sadly, this is a fact that despite claiming to have a ‘25 year career… as a vigorous advocate for crime victims’ Kratz is too self-interested—on many levels—to understand. He must resign.

(Emphasis mine.)

As I said before — how can this man live with himself?

Oh, one more thing.  Kratz is now going through a divorce.  (Is anyone surprised, except Kratz?  I think not.)

Do the right thing, Mr. Kratz.  Resign.  Now.  Or face recall.   Or possibly even be removed by the Governor of Wisconsin, Jim Doyle (WTMJ Radio reported around 6 PM this evening, 9/17/2010, that Doyle will be meeting with State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to see what can be done in this case, which sounded plenty ominous to me), something that has never before happened in my lifetime.

Because one way or another, Mr. Kratz, you will be out very soon.  Which seems to me to be a very good thing for the people of Calumet County — the victims in particular!

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 17, 2010 at 8:06 pm