You know something’s wrong when a County District Attorney scrambles to keep from public scrutiny the text messages he sent to a victim of domestic violence in a case he is prosecuting.
Yet that’s just what a prosecutor, Ken Kratz, is accused of doing in Wisconsin where he urged state officials to keep his text messages from being seen by the public, his peers, and state regulators.
According to the Associated Press, Kratz, 50, admitted to sending 30 text messages to the 26-year-old victim while he was prosecutor on her case against a violent ex-boyfriend. But, he claimed they were “a series of respectful messages” that were not sexual at all.
In one text message Kratz asked if she’s “the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA.” In others, according to the AP who reviewed the text messages, he called her “a hot, young nymph”, said “you are beautiful and would make a great young partner one day’ and ‘I would want you to be so hot and treat me so well that you’d be THE woman! R U that good?’.
After three days of this sexual harassment, the young woman reported the prosecutor to police. She aid she felt pressured to start a relationship with Kratz and was worried he would drop the charges against her ex-boyfriend or retaliate against her in another way if she did not respond positively to him.
There are so many levels of wrong in this incident, it’s hard to know where to begin
Shockingly, the state Office of Lawyer Regulation concluded in March that Kratz’s behavior was inappropriate but did not amount to misconduct.
No misconduct? Really? Here a young woman who had been violently assaulted and nearly choked to death by an ex-boyfriend turned to law enforcement for protection – only to be re-victimized through sexually explicit and demeaning text messages sent by the very prosecutor assigned to protect her through trying her case.
I’m amazed that this young woman had the courage – or the faith in our legal system – to go back to the police and report this second assault against her.
In the AP article, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence called Kratz’s behavior “absolutely unacceptable” and said he had compromised his ability to do his job. “His actions were more than just a lapse in judgment,” said spokesman Tony Gibart. “They in fact do have far-reaching implications for victim safety and public safety.”
What’s truly ironic is that Kratz was chairman of the Wisconsin Crime Victims’ Rights Board, When confronted with direct evidence he resisted stepping down according to email exchanges.
Kratz, who held a press conference the day after the AP broke the story, said he offered a “sincere and heartfelt apology” to the woman and his own 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.”
Though pressed with demands for his resignation, Kratz left the press conference without responding, saying only that would consider taking
personal time off work, as the court calendar will allow, to get psychotherapy treatment.
His rehearsed, camera ready, 4-minute statement of apology runs counter to comments he made earlier in the day when he said he was a victim of a “smear campaign.” Other Wisconsin attorneys have done far worse, he said, and “haven’t received near the attention or scrutiny that I have.”
Kratz also asserted that the only opinion he cared about was that of local voters, when he runs for office again in 2012 saying, “If the citizens of this county would like a different individual as district attorney, they’ll have that option.”
The lack of clear consequences matters
- It matters that a prosecutor, in a position of such power over a case, and therefore over the safety of the complainant, can abuse this trust and continue in that role.
- It matters that a victim of domestic violence cannot feel safe going to law enforcement to get the help needed without risking further exploitation.
- It matters that this appears to be a pattern of behavior – Kratz is accused of similar misconduct with two other women. Is there a threshold for how many women can be exploited before it counts?
- It matters to every person whose case may be assigned to Kratz for prosecution in the future.
- It matters that a prosecutor can propose to Justice officials a horse-trade to that he would step down as chair of a Crime Victims’ Rights Board if they agreed not to refer the matter to legal regulators or to initiate “public disclosure.” Were it not for the investigative reporting by AP’s Ryan Foley his actions may never have come to light.
- It matters that it appears as if no punishment will be meted out to this sexual harasser short of citizens voting him out of office two years from now.
- It matters that this man’s attitude towards on-line sexual predation allows him to minimize his own behavior with a that other attorneys have done worse and “haven’t received near the attention or scrutiny that I have.” Poor thing.
- It matters that although this incident occurred nearly a year ago, it was only after the AP story broke that the governor took initial steps toward removal of the prosecutor from his office
- It also matters that this lack of action says much about the governor’s attitude about sexual harassment.
Inequality between consequences for this mans sexting vs. consequences some teens have faced
I’m disgusted by this individual. But, I’m also struck by the disparity between what the consequences a person in his position faces for sexting (potentially none) vs. the consequences some teens have faced (including imprisonment and sex offender labels) for sending sexualized content to consenting partners.
Sure, the guy (as far as we know) did not send sexual images, but sexting explicit words to an unwilling participant – and exploiting one who has just been through another form of exploitation (while officially charged with aiding and protecting his client) is on an entirely different plane in my mind than two dumb kids swapping photos.