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No. 10: Kenneth Kratz

Of all people who should know the dangers of leaving an electronic trail of naughty behavior, a district attorney who has championed victim’s rights really ought to know better.

But 30 text messages earned Kenneth Kratz of Calumet County, Wisconsin, the moniker of “the sexting D.A.” The target of his texts: a domestic-abuse victim, whose case he was investigating. At the time, he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend, but he warned that he might drop the case if she didn’t encourage him properly.

He asked if she was “the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA…the riskier the better?” And he declared of his intentions, “I’m serious! I’m the atty. I have the $350,000 house. I have the 6-figure career. You may be the tall, young, hot nymph, but I am the prize!”

The victim reported Kratz’s behavior to the state Department of Justice, which concluded that no crime had been committed. Then the Associated Press reported the story, and outrage swept the nation. More accusations emerged: He had invited a woman to an autopsy, provided she dress up as his date, and he had sexually harassed a law student seeking a pardon for a teenage drug offense.

Kratz at first characterized his words as a “series of respectful messages,” but Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle, himself a former prosecutor, said that the case was “a terrible violation of trust.” Letters flooded the governor’s office, demanding Kratz’s removal, but the governor said that the legally required process to remove a district attorney was time-consuming. Kratz apologized and resigned as chair of the Wisconsin Crime Victims’ Rights Board, which he’d helped create. Still, he hung onto his job, saying that he wouldn’t leave until he was voted out. He checked himself into rehab and, weeks later, the embattled D.A. finally resigned.

The state Department of Justice announced that Kratz was the subject of a new criminal investigation. And the domestic-abuse victim has filed a civil lawsuit, claiming that Kratz violated her constitutional rights. No comment from Kratz, though — after saying he would undergo therapy, he has been in treatment outside Wisconsin.

–Cicely Wedgeworth

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