The Wisconsin Department of Justice has completed its criminal investigation of former Calumet County District Attorney Kenneth Kratz and will not be filing criminal charges, DOJ spokesman William J. Cosh said Monday.
"Our prosecutors have concluded that they cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a specific violation of a criminal law," said Cosh, who noted that any person is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Kratz had been the subject of a removal proceeding under section 17.16(3), Wis. Stats., a little used statutory procedure for the removal of a public official by the governor. When three residents of Calumet County filed verified charges last fall, former Governor Jim Doyle appointed Robert Jambois as commissioner for the removal hearing. Jambois subsequently requested prosecutorial assistance from the Department of Justice. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appointed Assistant Attorney General Tom Storm to assist with that proceeding.
Prior to commencement of the removal hearing on Oct. 8, Kratz resigned the office of Calumet County District Attorney and the proceeding was terminated. The Department of Justice continued its investigation to determine if there were any criminal violations for related activities, considering specifically the applicability of statutes prohibiting sexual assault, misconduct in public office, and premature disclosure of a search warrant. There was insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution for any criminal offense.
The Department of Justice previously prompted a referral of the Kratz matter to the Supreme Court's Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), which handles the investigation and discipline of state lawyers, and has provided complete access to OLR of its investigative file.
Officials of Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs said Monday they are disappointed Wisconsin's Justice Department can find no basis for bringing criminal charges against Kratz for his actions involving allegations of inappropriate treatment toward female victims of crime.
"The fact that the Attorney General cannot find anything criminal in Mr. Kratz's morally inexcusable actions shows our state's Crime Victims Rights Law as it now stands needs to be amended," said Beth Schnorr, Harbor House executive director. "According to our state constitution, victims of crime are to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect. When a prosecutor stoops to the level of sexting clients or worse and nothing can be done to legally reprimand him, we know we have some work to do to fix the loopholes in this law."
Kratz came under fire after news broke Sept. 15 that he engaged in inappropriate text messages with a domestic abuse victim for whom he was supposed to be prosecuting the case against her boyfriend. Several other women came forward alleging potentially unethical and inappropriate behaviors by Kratz over the past several years, and on Oct. 4 he finally resigned his post as district attorney. Former Gov. Jim Doyle later appointed Jerilyn Dietz to the position on Dec. 3.
Harbor House's primary shelter and program center is in Appleton, but it also provides services to Calumet County victims and survivors of domestic abuse through its rural outreach office in Chilton.
Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs has been serving families affected by domestic violence in Outagamie and Calumet counties since 1984. Its mission is "to lead a community-wide partnership in the awareness and prevention of domestic violence and abuse and to offer safety and support to diverse families and individuals in crisis." Services provided include safe shelter, one-on-one counseling and advocacy, support groups, legal assistance and more. For more information go to www.harborhouseonline.org or call (920) 832-1667.
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