Ex-Wis. DA pleads no contest to ethics violations

A former Wisconsin prosecutor accused of rampant sexual harassment agreed Friday to plead no contest to six ethics violations, moving his sordid case closer to a resolution.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation filed a complaint against former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz in November alleging 11 breaches of state Supreme Court attorney conduct rules. The office accused him of soliciting a domestic abuse victim through a barrage of sleazy text messages, forcing a woman he prosecuted to have sex with him and making sexual remarks to a number of other women. The office urged the court to suspend Kratz's law license for six months.

He faces no criminal charges.

Kratz said Friday that he has reached an agreement with OLR attorney Tom Basting to plead no contest to three counts alleging his text messages to the domestic abuse victim created a conflict of interest and amounted to sexual harassment and an "offensive personality." He also agreed to plead no contest to another three counts alleging he made lurid comments to a pair of county social workers.

"I'm doing everything within my power to put this ordeal behind me," Kratz said in a statement.

In turn, Basting dropped two counts accusing Kratz of engaging in offensive personality and sexually harassing the woman he prosecuted. The attorney earlier dropped another count accusing Kratz of violating a state law mandating crime victims be treated with respect, as well as two counts accusing him of sexually harassing a law school graduate who sought his help with a pardon for a drug conviction.

Basting said he didn't feel he could prove any of the five charges. The woman who accused Kratz of forcing her to have sex is in jail, the crime victim statutes don't specifically address Kratz's behavior with the domestic abuse victim and the law school graduate has left the state, he said.

"I could not have sustained the clear and convincing burden of proof," Basting said.

Kratz has acknowledged that his texts to the domestic abuse victim were inappropriate but maintains that the other women are lying and that the regulation office had no grounds to re-open the case against him that was closed two years ago.

A hearing scheduled for Tuesday will focus on the severity of Kratz's punishment.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation still wants Katz to suffer a six-month suspension. He will get a chance to convince a referee he deserves a lighter reprimand. The referee will make a recommendation to the state Supreme Court and the seven justices will make the final call.

Kratz resigned from his $105,000 district attorney post in October 2010 after The Associated Press reported he sent 30 text messages to a 25-year-old woman in 2009 trying to spark a relationship while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend for domestic abuse. Kratz, then 50, called the woman a "hot nymph" and touted himself as "the prize."

The woman went to the police, who forwarded the case to the state Justice Department. That agency concluded Kratz committed no criminal wrongdoing, but urged him to get someone else to handle the woman's case and step down as chairman of the state crime victims board.

Kratz complied with both recommendations. He also was ordered to report the texts to the OLR.

The office concluded he acted inappropriately but declined to discipline him and closed his case in March 2010. It reopened the case in September 2010, bowing to intense public pressure in the wake of the AP's stories.

More women started coming forward with allegations. The Justice Department reviewed their complaints but again found Kratz committed no criminal acts. The OLR still brought the ethics charges against him, though, and the domestic abuse victim has filed a federal harassment lawsuit against him. Two months ago he filed for bankruptcy.