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Accused 'sexting' DA: I'll get therapy

Investigators allege Kenneth Kratz texted a domestic violence victim: "I would want you to be so hot."
Investigators allege Kenneth Kratz texted a domestic violence victim: "I would want you to be so hot."Morry Gash / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Wisconsin district attorney said Friday he'll get therapy and consider taking time off work but won't resign despite the growing calls for him to step down over sexually-tinged text messages he sent to a domestic abuse victim.

At a news conference Friday, Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz offered a "sincere and heartfelt apology" to the woman and his family for his lack of judgment.

"This behavior showed a lack of respect, not only for my position but for the young woman that was involved," he said from the courthouse in Chilton in remarks carried live by Wisconsin television stations.

But Kratz left without taking questions after reading a four-minute statement, and did not respond to increasing calls for his resignation. He said only he would consider taking personal time off work as the court calendar will allow as he gets psychotherapy treatment.

The news conference marked the most remorse Kratz has shown in the two days since acknowledging he sent 30 text messages in three days to the 26-year-old woman last October. In one, he asked whether she was "the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA."

In others he called her a "tall, young, hot nymph" and questioned whether her "low self-esteem" was to blame for her lack of interest. At the time, he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend on strangulation charges.

Kratz had struck a far different tone in an interview earlier Friday, saying he was the victim of a "smear campaign" and dismissing calls for his resignation.

Earlier in the day, Kratz said he only cared about the opinion of local voters, who will get to decide whether he should stay in office in November 2012.

"If the citizens of this county would like a different individual as district attorney, they'll have that option," he said.

"It's just this kind of smear campaign that they try to avoid" by keeping misconduct investigations confidential, he said. Other Wisconsin attorneys have done far worse, he said, and "haven't received near the attention or scrutiny that I have."

Re-election plans
Kratz, a Republican, said he intends to run for re-election in 2012. He spoke to The Associated Press hours after a state lawmaker called on Gov. Jim Doyle to start the proceedings to remove him from office. Doyle's office had no immediate comment on the request from Democratic Rep. Fred Kessler of Milwaukee.

Wisconsin's largest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, called on Kratz to resign in an editorial published Friday. The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence also said Friday he should step down, one day after the group called his actions "totally unacceptable."

The texts sent by Kratz could have jeopardized the prosecution of the victim's ex-boyfriend on charges he nearly choked her to death, a state Department of Justice official told Kratz last year.

After three days of what she called sexual harassment, Stephanie Van Groll reported the messages to police last year. She said she felt pressure to start a relationship with Kratz or worried he would drop the charges against her ex-boyfriend or retaliate against her in another way.

The complaint was referred to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. E-mail exchanges between Justice officials and Kratz, obtained by the AP through the open records law, show Kratz repeatedly downplayed the nature of the messages and sought to keep them from the public.

Kratz said they were "a series of respectful messages" that were not sexual at all.

Kevin Potter, administrator of DOJ's division of legal services, rejected the claim and said they could be construed as sexual harassment.

"Telling her several times she is 'hot' or referring to her as 'tall, young hot nymph' certainly has sexual overtones as do your comments that 'You are beautiful and would make a great young partner one day' or 'I would want you to be so hot and treat me so well that you'd be THE woman! R U that good?'" he wrote to Kratz.

Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence called Kratz's behavior "absolutely unacceptable" and said he had compromised his ability to do his job. Other victims might not step forward for fear of how they'll be treated by his office, the group said.

"His actions were more than just a lapse in judgment," spokesman Tony Gibart said. "They in fact do have far-reaching implications for victim safety and public safety."

The state Office of Lawyer Regulation concluded in March that Kratz's behavior was inappropriate but did not amount to misconduct, a finding blasted Thursday on media outlets across the state. The office's director, Keith Sellen, said questions were appropriate but he could not comment under rules that require investigations to stay confidential.

Kratz, a Republican, has been the top local prosecutor in Chilton, in rural eastern Wisconsin, since 1992. He is known for prosecuting a high-profile slaying of a photographer in 2007.

The e-mails show Kratz at first resisted resigning as chairman of the Wisconsin Crime Victims' Rights Board, which he had helped create and led since 1998, or reporting his conduct to the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

After the pressure from the Justice department, Kratz ultimately stepped down from the board and reported himself to regulation office in December. He had proposed settling the matter with Justice officials by stepping down from the board but having them agree not to refer the matter to legal regulators or to initiate "public disclosure."