MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A former prosecutor who sent racy text messages to a domestic abuse victim will not face criminal charges over misconduct and sexual assault allegations levied by more than a dozen women, the Wisconsin Justice Department announced Monday.
State investigators determined that former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz’s “conduct appears to fit the connotation of ‘misconduct’ and demonstrates inappropriate behavior but does not satisfy the elements required to prosecute,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Tom Storm.
Kratz’s attorney, Robert Bellin, said his office was investigating whether anyone lied in an effort to hurt Kratz.
“I think it’s obviously the right decision,” Bellin said of not filing charges. “I don’t think we were that worried about it. We think that there were statements from individuals who came forward who were not completely truthful.”
Kratz resigned from his $105,000 per year position in October after The Associated Press reported he had sent 30 text messages trying to strike up an affair with a domestic abuse victim while he prosecuted her ex-boyfriend on a strangulation charge. Kratz, who was 50 at the time, called 26-year-old Stephanie Van Groll “a hot nymph” and asked if she was “the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married DA.”
Van Groll complained to police and Kratz was removed from her ex-boyfriend’s case. The Justice Department investigated at the time but decided not to file charges. Kratz was instead ordered to self-report the text messages to the Office of Lawyer Regulation, a separate state entity that reviews attorneys’ conduct. The office declined to discipline Kratz, saying he hadn’t violated any rules.
Pressure mounted on Kratz to resign after Van Groll’s allegations became public. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle began removal procedures and other women came forward with accusations. The Justice Department and the lawyer regulation office both reopened investigations.
The Justice Department on Monday released its case summary, which said Van Groll was among a dozen or so women who complained about Kratz.
Two claimed they had sexual contact with Kratz, five alleged misconduct in office, and one alleged Kratz improperly told her about a search warrant. The remaining complaints didn’t include an identifiable criminal offense, the report said.
Storm, who led the investigation, wrote that one of the alleged sexual encounters occurred in 1999 and the statute of limitations had expired. The other sexual contact complaint contained “insurmountable proof problems,” Storm wrote, adding the woman wouldn’t be a credible witness because she suffered from mental illness, had prior convictions and consented to the contact.
As for misconduct in office, complaints included the messages Kratz sent to Van Groll as well as accusations Kratz sought a personal relationship with one woman in exchange for help in winning a gubernatorial pardon and a relationship with another woman in exchange for help writing a victim impact statement against her husband.
But investigators found Kratz technically didn’t fail or refuse to perform his duties, didn’t exceed his authority and didn’t try to gain a dishonest advantage.
A woman also alleged that while she was out to eat with Kratz, he was on the phone with investigators discussing a search that was under way, possibly in connection with a search warrant. Wisconsin law prohibits premature disclosure of a search warrant’s existence. But the woman couldn’t say that Kratz actually disclosed a warrant existed at any time.
“There is no reasonable possibility that further investigation will reveal evidence establishing the elements of a criminal offense,” Storm wrote. “There are no further leads to pursue and the file should be closed.”
Separately, Van Groll has filed a federal civil lawsuit accusing Kratz of sexual harassment. That case still is pending. Van Groll’s attorney, Michael Fox, didn’t immediately return a message Monday.