Kratz victim's lawyer says lawsuit 'likely' - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Kratz victim's lawyer says lawsuit 'likely'

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By Capitol Bureau Chief Bob Schaper - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) -- The attorney who represents the domestic abuse victim at the center of the Ken Kratz sexting storm says a federal lawsuit in the matter is "likely."

"The most important thing, I believe, is to move ahead with a civil rights suit," Michael Fox said.

Fox says if he and his client decide to sue, the lawsuit would be filed against Kratz personally. He said the suit would be filed in federal court, specifically the eastern district of Wisconsin. 

"What I'm looking at now is essentially a test case to see if the law recognizes that (the victim) does have rights," Fox said. "I believe she does."

His client, Stephanie Van Groll, received 30 text messages from Kratz in 2009 while Kratz, the district attorney for Calumet County, was prosecuting a man who had beaten her. Van Groll complained to her local police department, which referred the matter to the attorney general's office.

Other agencies, including the Office of Lawyer Regulation and the Crime Victims Rights Board, investigated Kratz's behavior, but took no action.

Fox says a suit might lead to a court ruling that would clarify what rights victims have on matters like this - and what constitutes misconduct by public officials.

"This really is on the cutting edge of what is and what is not a violation," he said.

But in the end, Fox says the U.S. constitution demands that public officials treat men and women equally. And in this case, by Kratz's own admission, Fox's client was singled out because of her sex.

"You can't use your public power to coerce someone into a relationship that they would not voluntarily choose to have on their own," Fox said.

Fox said the Crime Victims Rights Board had abdicated its responsibility to protect his client, and that the OLR had embarrassed itself by clearing Kratz without even beginning an investigation.

Still, neither organization, he said, would be included in the potential lawsuit.

"This will be a suit targeted at the person who committed the wrongdoing," Fox said.

He said financial compensation was also a possibility.

"To the extent that a person has been damaged, the court will determine if they're recoverable," Fox said. "I believe she's been damaged by these actions."

Fox said the potential lawsuit would be a "1983 action," which deals with equal protection under the U.S. constitution.

Fox says another woman who has contacted his office would not be a part of the lawsuit, because the statute of limitations regarding her allegations has expired.

Whether the state would defend Kratz in a civil action was unclear.

 

27 News Continuing Coverage:

Kratz case shows changes to lawyer oversight needed, officials and victims advocates say (October 4, 2010)

Calumet County D.A. Ken Kratz resigns (October 4, 2010)

Crime Victims Rights Board questions Kratz's veracity (September 29, 2010)

27 NEWS EXCLUSIVE: Live interview with A.G. J.B. Van Hollen on Kratz case (September 21, 2010)

Third victim hopes District Attorney will step down (September 21, 2010)

Kratz scandal could have 'chilling effect' on all domestic violence victims (September 21, 2010)

Fallout continues over 'sexting D.A.', officials point fingers (September 21, 2010)

Third woman accuses Kratz (September 21, 2010)

Gov. Doyle calls D.A.'s actions "a terrible violation of trust" (September 21, 2010)

Kratz's lawyer says allegations "driven by financial opportunity" (September 22, 2010)

Gov. Doyle receives verified complaint against D.A. Ken Kratz (September 22, 2010)

Assembly chair says he'll review Kratz matter (September 22, 2010)

Top DOJ prosecutor Kratz political supporter (September 22, 2010)

Domestic abuse influences women to ask Gov. to remove D.A. (September 22, 2010)

Criminal prosecution of Kratz still possible (September 23, 2010)

Kratz's other authority: Chair of Crime Victims Rights Board (September 23, 2010)

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