CHILTON, Wis. (AP) – A Wisconsin prosecutor facing removal from office over accusations that he used his position to seek relationships with women will resign instead, his attorney said Monday.
Attorney Robert Craanen said Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz will step down before Oct. 8, the date for a hearing on his possible removal from office.
Craanen spoke to reporters after a meeting at the Chilton courthouse on proceedings Gov. Jim Doyle initiated for Kratz’s removal. Kratz was not present and did not immediately return a phone message left on his cell phone.
Kratz, a Republican, had been the top prosecutor in the eastern Wisconsin county south of Green Bay since 1992. He had faced demands for his resignation since earlier this month, when The Associated Press reported he sent text messages to a domestic abuse victim while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend on a strangulation charge.
In them, he called the woman a “hot nymph” and asked if she was “the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA.”
Lawmakers, the governor and victims’ advocates were outraged, and the news only got worse for Kratz.
An Oklahoma law student said she received similar texts in 2008 after Kratz supported her request for a pardon on an old drug charge. A woman complained to Doyle’s office that Kratz invited her to a date at an autopsy. Other women who have stayed anonymous made similar allegations to a local newspaper and a civil rights attorney.
On Friday, the Office of Lawyer Regulation announced it would reopen an investigation into the allegations and determine whether Kratz committed professional misconduct. That office received biting criticism after news that it was aware of the text messages in March but declined to discipline Kratz, saying he hadn’t violated any rules.
Kratz, 50, announced last week he was on medical leave from his $105,000 per year job indefinitely, and his attorney said he was getting treatment for an undisclosed problem. He has apologized for the text messages to Stephanie Van Groll, 26, but stayed mostly silent on the accusations by other women, except to deny the autopsy allegation.Click here to subscribe to Wisconsin Law Journal today
Kratz was appointed by Gov. Tommy Thompson and had been re-elected several times since without opposition. He was not up for re-election until 2012.
Doyle last week started a rarely used process to consider removing Kratz from office for cause. The hearing Monday was to set a schedule for the process, including the public hearing date. Doyle ultimately would have made the call on whether the actions were serious enough to warrant removal.
Doyle spokesman Adam Collins said the governor has not received a resignation letter from Kratz, and until he does, “he will continue with the removal proceedings.”
Kratz was best known for winning the 2007 conviction of Steven Avery in the death of a photographer. The case received national attention because the killing happened shortly after Avery was freed from prison, where he spent 18 years for a rape he did not commit.
Kratz was also the longtime chairman of the Wisconsin Crime Victims’ Rights Board, which investigates and sanctions public officials who violate crime victims’ rights. He stepped down from that post in December under pressure from state officials.