MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Justice refused Wednesday to represent a disgraced former district attorney in a discrimination lawsuit filed by a domestic abuse victim who says he sent her sexually suggestive text messages.
It's now up to Gov. Jim Doyle to decide whether taxpayers will have to foot the bill to defend Ken Kratz, the former Calumet County district attorney who resigned in October amid an uproar over the text messages and claims of misconduct by at least four other women.
A spokesman for Doyle did not immediately return messages Wednesday seeking comment.
Kratz sent Stephanie Van Groll 30 text messages in three days last year while prosecuting her ex-boyfriend on charges of beating and nearly choking her to death.
A week after he resigned, Van Groll filed a federal lawsuit in Milwaukee claiming he violated her constitutional rights by sending her the text messages.
Her attorney, Michael Fox, said he wasn't surprised Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's office declined to represent Kratz given that the office previously investigated him for criminal misconduct related to the text messages and forced him to resign from the Crime Victims' Rights Board.
Fox also said the refusal was understandable given that Kratz has accused Van Hollen's office of leaking the information and trying to smear his name.
"I'm the least surprised person in the room that the attorney general's office would decline direct representation of Kratz," Fox said.
Justice Department spokesman Bill Cosh confirmed Wednesday that DOJ would not represent Kratz, but he did not know the reason. He said he could not release the letter sent to Doyle declining representation.
Kratz's current attorney, Robert Bellin, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Fox said he wouldn't be surprised if Bellin were appointed by Doyle. The key is who pays for the attorney: Kratz or taxpayers.
Kratz, 50, sent the 26-year-old Van Groll 30 text messages in three days last year while prosecuting her ex-boyfriend on charges of beating and nearly choking her to death. In the text messages to Van Groll, Kratz asked whether she was "the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA" and called her a "tall, young hot nymph."
Van Groll alleges in the lawsuit that Kratz's behavior was sexually harassing, discriminating and part of a pattern dating back years. It claims her right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution was violated and seeks unspecified damages.
Other women who have accused Kratz of inappropriate behavior include a law student who says he sought a relationship after agreeing to help her seek a pardon for a drug conviction and a woman who says Kratz invited her on a date to a victim's autopsy.