CHILTON, Wis. — A prosecutor who sent sexually suggestive text messages to a woman while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend in a domestic abuse case has said he will not resign.
Kenneth Kratz, 50, district attorney of Calumet County, Wisc., issued a statement Wednesday after The Associated Press reported on the 30 texts he sent to a 26-year-old woman who had complained to police last year.
A police report shows he repeatedly sent Stephanie Van Groll text messages in October 2009 trying to spark an affair.
"Are you the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA ... the riskier the better?" Kratz wrote in one message.
In another, he wrote: "I would not expect you to be the other woman. I would want you to be so hot and treat me so well that you'd be THE woman! R U that good?"
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Kratz was prosecuting Van Groll's ex-boyfriend, Shannon Konitzer, on charges he nearly choked her to death last year.
The district attorney was veteran chair of the Wisconsin Crime Victims' Rights Board, a quasi-judicial agency that can reprimand judges, prosecutors and police officers who mistreat crime victims.
'A non-news story'
In a combative interview in his office, Kratz did not deny sending the messages and expressed concern their publication would unfairly embarrass him personally and professionally.
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He said the Office of Lawyer Regulation found in March he did not violate any rules governing attorney misconduct.
"This is a non-news story," Kratz shouted. But he added: "I'm worried about it because of my reputational interests."
Hours later, Kratz issued a statement acknowledging sending the messages and saying he "was embarrassed at this lapse of judgment."
"I have never been the subject of attorney discipline during my entire 25-year career, and until today, have enjoyed a spotless reputation as a vigorous advocate for crime victims," he said.
Van Groll told police in Kaukauna, Wis., where she lived, that she felt pressured to have a relationship with Kratz or he would drop charges against her ex-boyfriend.
"Nothing really happened to him [Kratz] and I had three days of hell," Van Groll said in a phone interview with the AP.
"They gave him a slap on the wrist and told him not to do it again. If it was anybody else that did something like this, they'd lose their job," she added.
Van Groll said Kratz sent the first text minutes after she left his office, where he had interviewed her about the case.
He said it was nice talking and "you have such potential," signing the message "KEN (your favorite DA)."
Twenty minutes later, he added, "I wish you weren't one of this office's clients. You'd be a cool person to know!" But he quickly tried to start a relationship and told her to keep quiet about the texts.
'I'm serious! I'm the atty'
Kratz questioned whether her "low self-esteem" was to blame for the lack of interest.
"I'm serious! 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 texted.
Kratz told her the relationship would unfold slow enough for "Shannon's case to get done." "Remember it would have to be special enough to risk all," he wrote.
Another message, reported by the Appleton Post Crescent, said: "No problem. Either way I think you are very nice. I am very smart, but know this is all up to you and really does depend on how close to the edge you live."
He appears to have gradually started to realize, Van Groll was not interested. "I need direction from you. Yes you are a risk taker and can keep your mouth shut and you think this is fun..or you think a man twice your age is creepy so stop," he texted, according to the Post Crescent.
Van Groll at first was polite, saying Kratz was "a nice person" and thanking him for praise. By the second day, she responded with answers such as "dono" or "no."
"I think your wife would have something to say about that. I don't think I could be the other woman," she said in one text, the Appleton Post reported.
Van Groll said she went to police after the messages started becoming "kind of vulgar." She provided copies of 30 messages and her responses, which the department released in response to an AP request.
The department referred the complaint to the state Division of Criminal Investigation.
Van Groll, a college student and part-time preschool teacher who has moved to Merrill, said she has been told Kratz won't be charged because "they didn't think he did anything criminally wrong."
Kratz said he "immediately removed himself" from the prosecution after learning about the complaint, and the state Department of Justice took over.
Wife filed for divorce
He said he resigned from the crime victims board, which he helped create, after more than a decade as chair as a "self-imposed sanction." He and his wife filed for divorce last December.
Kratz has served in Chilton since 1992 and earns a $105,000 salary. Kratz, a Republican, isn't up for re-election until November 2012.
Domestic violence experts called Kratz's text messages disturbing and unethical for several reasons, including the power differential between a prosecutor and a younger abuse victim.
"If what's being alleged is true, it's sad a prosecutor would use the same sort of power and control over a woman who has already experienced that in her personal life," said Patti Seger, executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Kratz, who flirted with a run for Congress in 2008, may be best known for prosecuting Steven Avery in the 2005 killing of Teresa Halbach, a 25-year-old photographer.
The case received national attention because Avery had spent 18 years behind bars for a rape he did not commit in a separate case before DNA evidence implicated someone else.
A spokeswoman said the victims' rights board had not received a complaint about Kratz and was not investigating his conduct toward Van Groll.
The Appleton Post reported that the Office of Lawyer Regulation was not planning to pursue disciplinary action against Kratz, who told the organization what he had done after Van Groll complained to police.
"Although (Kratz's) communication with you was inappropriate, it did not appear to involve possible professional misconduct," Cynthia Schally, a lawyer regulation investigator, wrote March 5 to Van Groll, according to the newspaper.
Kratz cited an undisclosed conflict of interest in stepping away from the abuse case after Van Groll reported the text messages, court records show.
A special prosecutor won a conviction on one felony count of strangulation against Konitzer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.