In an exclusive interview Tuesday night on 27 News at 10, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen addressed the controversy surrounding Calumet County D.A. Ken Kratz, who admitted to sexting a domestic abuse victim.More >>
MADISON (WKOW) -- A Wisconsin Department of Justice official said a criminal prosecution of Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz is still possible with new information, even though Department officials last fall determined Kratz's sexually suggestive text messages to a domestic abuse victim did not amount to a crime.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's spokesperson Bill Cosh said as Van Hollen acts as prosecutor in Governor Doyle's consideration of removing Kratz from office, the department's view of Kratz's actions may change. While the governor has the power to remove Kratz after a hearing process, it is not a criminal proceeding.
"We're gathering information related to the removal proceedings we expect to commence," Cosh told WKOW27 News.
"If, in the course of that process, we find evidence of criminal conduct, we'll take the appropriate steps at that time."
Since Kratz's text messages were made public, at least two other women have alleged inappropriate conduct on the part of Kratz.
Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie), an attorney, told WKOW27 News Kratz's sending of the text messages alone could constitute a criminal charge under Wisconsin's misconduct in public office statute.
WKOW27 News reported Assistant Attorney General David Wambach, who has prosecuted many cases for DOJ, was one of a small group of supporters when Kratz created a campaign committee to explore a run for Congress in 2008.
DOJ spokesperson Dean Stensberg declined to comment on whether Wambach was involved in the 2009 decision not to criminally prosecute Kratz.
"We're not getting into who was involved this process," Stensberg said.
"The actions of this office speak for themselves. The attorney general caused Kratz's surrender of a criminal matter and we successfully prosecuted it. He caused Kratz to resign from the Crime Victims Rights Board. He caused Kratz to report to the Office of Lawyer Regulation."
E-mails show a DOJ official urged Kratz to report his conduct with the text messages to OLR, and to resign Kratz's chairmanship of the Board. Kratz did both, but OLR decided not to investigate Kratz's actions. An assistant attorney general relieved Kratz of the prosecution of the victim's domestic abuser.
Van Hollen has assigned Assistant Attorney General Tom Storm as the prosecutor in the governor's removal case against Kratz. Storm is Fond Du Lac County's former district attorney.
If Kratz is removed, he will be the first Wisconsin district attorney to be expelled by a governor since Governor Tommy Thompson removed Lincoln County District Attorney James Blask in 1996.
Unlike Kratz, Blask was convicted of misdemeanor criminal charges before the removal hearing. Blask roughed up a man at the county court house and a basketball referee after a high school game in separate incidents. Blask questioned witnesses himself during the removal hearing.
On Sept. 20, when verified complaints from Calumet County residents were lodged with Doyle to initiate Kratz's removal process, Blask filed a civil action in Dane County Circuit Court, disputing the state's denial of certain retirement benefits to him.
In a petition supporting the legal filing, Blask referenced his ouster as district attorney by Thompson and stated he was treated "unduly harshly for conduct he was not fully in control of that time." Documents state Thompson was ill at the time of his removal.
Kratz's attorney, Bob Craanen has said Kratz is undergoing unspecified in-patient treatment while on a medical leave from his district attorney's position. At a news conference addressing allegations against him before the treatment, Kratz said he received psychotherapy in response to his racy texting to the crime victim.
Craanen has yet to return a call from WKOW27 News, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Craanen intended to call witnesses to examine the motives of the women accusers.