It's Hard Out There For A D. A.

(Trigger warning for description of domestic violence, prosecutorial misconduct in a domestic violence case, and attempts to coerce sex from a position of authority. The first part of this piece is written from the perspective of a harasser.)

Hey, baby, hey baby, over here. Yeah, you, sugar.

Now, you know you're just a low-class bimbo who gets herself beat up by her boyfriend, right? I mean, that's the kind of guy a chick like you rates. But today is your lucky day, because I have got a prize for you!

"I am the prize"! The District Attorney who — if you're smart in distributing your assets, heh, heh — will be prosecuting the case against that guy who tried to strangle you to death. Hell, yeah, baby, how did you get so lucky!

I mean, you may be "the tall, young, hot nymph", but "I'm the attorney. I have the $350,000 house. I have the 6-figure career." You sure don't think there's any other way a chick like you could get close to any of that, do you? So I can see why you would have "low self-esteem", but don't let that stop you from grabbing this prize! Because "you have such potential"! The potential "to be so hot" for my personal enjoyment, is what I'm thinking.

Maybe you feel this would be kind of risky, me being married, and the prosecutor on your case — against the guy who tried to strangle you. You sure wouldn't want him going free. He's probably really pissed off that you brought charges. Wonder what the guy who tried to strangle you before would do to you now he's mad, if he got the impression that the legal system had lost interest in what happens to you? But I digress.

I was talking about how risky this "secret contact with an older, married, elected DA" would be. Yeah, it'd be risky for me. "That's why it would have to be special enough to risk it all." Oh, man, so special. So risky. Soooo hot. "The riskier the better?"

"I would not expect you to be the other woman" (but you would be). No, no. "I would want you to be so hot and treat me so well" that I'd just forget I was married! "R U that good?"

C'mon, baby. You know I'm not going to take no for an answer. Why do you think I keep texting you? I started ten minutes after you left my office, after our interview about your case, and I don't plan on stopping til I get what I want. Oh, and that case against your ex-boyfriend? We can totally work the timing on this relationship "for his case to get done."

And, baby, nobody knows how to appreciate a good little victim like I do! "I wrote the law on crime victims in this state."

Don't you worry about a thing, baby. Hell, I'm the chair of the state Crime Victims Rights Board. We have the power to reprimand judges, prosecutors and police officers who mistreat crime victims. Or not.

So you know you can trust me, baby.

Does that sound to you like the right way for the District Attorney responsible for prosecuting a man charged with attempting to strangle a woman to death to communicate to the victim in the case? Yeah. Me neither.

But the D.A. in Calumet County, Wisconsin thought it was just right for him. Since the victim went to the police to lodge a complaint against him, and the matter has become public, he is concerned about the potential damage to the victim in this case, however. The victim being him.

"I'm worried about it because of my reputational interests. I'm worried about it because of my 25 years as a prosecutor, " says D.A. Kenneth Kratz.
Kratz told Ryan J. Foley of the Associated Press — shouted it, actually — that "this is a non-news story", and "expressed concern" that the publication of his text messages to the victim, soliciting a sexual relationship with her "would unfairly embarrass him personally and professionally."
After the story of his behavior toward 26-year-old Stephanie Van Groll became public, he withdrew from the prosecution of her ex-boyfriend, which was then taken over by the state Department of Justice. (An assistant state attorney general, acting as a special prosecutor, won a conviction on one felony count of strangulation against the woman's assailant.) D.A. Kratz also resigned from the crime victims board.

He retains his position as County District Attorney, and says he plans to run for re-election a year from now. Thus the concern about his "reputational interests".

Presumably, the treatment the victim received from the local police in handling the case of her ex-boyfriend's attack on her was respectful enough that when the D.A. continued to harass her after she had told him she was not interested, she felt it was worthwhile reporting the D.A.'s behavior to the police, which she did out of fear that her assailant would not be prosecuted if she did not give in to the D.A.'s ongoing sexual importuning.

But if the way the police had initially handled her original complaint had seemed to treat it less than seriously, as has so often happened to victims of domestic violence, if they had treated her with skepticism or disdain, how and why would she have found the courage to return to them, given the horrendous situation she was already dealing with?

There are entire classes of victims, within the already vulnerable class of victims of domestic violence, who are even more frequently treated with disdain — poor women, women of color, trans women, sex workers, homeless women, and of course there are many women who are in more than one of those classes.

It is vital that women, and all victims, be able to trust police, prosecutors, and the court system. All too frequently they can't. I fervently hope the voters of Calumet County can be trusted not to return this excrescence on the public weal to his position. But there can be no justification for the people, and particularly the women, of that county having to rely on this man's participation in the criminal justice system between now and November of 2012.

Yet that seems to be the case. Her courage in returning to the police to lodge a complaint against someone whom they depend on to prosecute the cases they put together resulted in the local police — because they do have to continue working with the local D.A. — referring the complaint to the state Division of Criminal Investigation. That Division has taken no action against Kratz. The victim says she was told that, "they didn't think he did anything criminally wrong."

Kratz says that the Office of Lawyer Regulation found he did not violate any rules governing attorney misconduct. The Office itself cannot comment on investigations.

So, a central figure in the county criminal justice system uses his position to attempt to coerce a crime victim into a sexual relationship with him, harasses her by sending her 30 text messages in 3 days, beginning immediately after interviewing her about the case he will be prosecuting against the man who tried to strangle her, and the official verdict seems to be: no criminal wrongdoing on the part of this officer of the court, and no lawyerly misconduct.

And had Ms. Van Groll been afraid to return to the police, afraid that if she reported him no one would do anything and the man who tried to kill her would not be prosecuted, if in her desperation she had acceded to the vile Kratz' proposition, what then?

Why, then, she's a dirty gold-digging slut who slept with a married, middle-aged man because he's an important guy with a lot more money than her. In this situation, initiated by a man in a powerful position, on whom the victim was dependent for legal resolution of the case against her attacker, anything she does may be wrong. But somehow nothing he did is really wrong. Just kind of embarrassing.

[The italicized text above is my representation of the nature of the D.A.'s approach to the victim, not a literal description of his communication to her. The words in quotation marks within that italicized text are direct quotes from the D.A.'s text messages to the victim, as well as some from his interview with the AP's Foley. Emphasis given by bolding was my addition. But the emphasis which the bolding is meant to highlight, the total focus on himself, his own desires and interests, at the expense of a victim of serious violence, who is a member of the public whom he was entrusted and well-paid to represent, was provided entirely by the atrociously, criminally (in my view, if not that of the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice) egotistic asshole himself.]

Edited to correct attribution of some quoted material. Kratz was interviewed by Ryan J. Foley of the Associated Press, not by the Wisconsin State Journal, as I originally wrote. The link in the post is to the State Journal which carried Foley's article. Thanks to Shaker shiftydiscogirl for bringing the error to my attention.

H/T to Liss, who sent me this story.

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