MADISON, Wis. – A law student said Tuesday that a Wisconsin prosecutor accused of abusing his power to seek relationships with two other women also sent her sexually harassing text messages in 2008 while helping her seek a pardon for a drug conviction.
Maria Ruskiewicz said she believes Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz wanted sexual favors after agreeing to support her pardon. She said she met Kratz in his office and that afterward he sent her texts that soon turned harassing — including one that asked how she would impress him in bed.
Ruskiewicz, an Oklahoma City University law student, is the third woman in the past week to allege that Kratz acted inappropriately as district attorney.
“The reason why I'm coming forward is he abuses his power, not only with women, but with women in certain situations who are extremely vulnerable to his authority,” Ruskiewicz, 31, an Appleton native, told The Associated Press. Gov. Jim Doyle pardoned her last month, a move Kratz supported, according to the pardon resolution.
Kratz has acknowledged sending 30 text messages in three days last year to a domestic abuse victim while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend. In the messages, Kratz asked whether the woman was “the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA,” and called her a “tall, young, hot nymph.”
A second woman complained to Doyle’s office last week that Kratz invited her to an autopsy after they went to dinner in January, “provided I act as his girlfriend and would wear high heels and a skirt.”
Doyle said Kratz’s behavior was an “unimaginable” abuse of power if true. He planned to start the process to consider removing Kratz from office and said he hopes to make a decision in a month.
Kratz’s attorney, Bob Craanen, denied that his client invited the second woman to witness the autopsy and has apologized for the text messages to the abuse victim. Craanen said he did not know anything about Ruskiewicz’s claims Tuesday and could not reach Kratz, who is receiving in-patient therapy.
Kratz announced Monday he was going on medical leave indefinitely. He has rejected calls to resign from lawmakers, his peers and victims’ advocates.
Ruskiewicz said Kratz prosecuted her in 1997 on a charge of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. She said she was a troubled teenager then but spent the next decade turning her life around, earning two college degrees before being accepted to law school.
She went to Kratz in 2008 asking for support for her bid to wipe away her felony past and seek advice for law school. She said they met in his office, where he asked an odd question about whether a boss could have a sexual relationship with a secretary. She said she was confused but grateful for his support for the pardon.
He gave her his cell phone number, and she texted him later to thank him for the help — a move she now calls a mistake.
She said his messages soon turned suggestive. She recalled him texting while he was on vacation in Michigan with his family asking her to impress him “in between naps.” She said he later pestered her when she didn’t answer.
Ruskiewicz said she did not want to alienate Kratz, who was critical for her pardon. After discussing the matter with relatives, she told him she was not interested and he said he would stop.
She said she didn’t hear from him for months but then got a message in which he asked to meet in person to discuss “a personal matter.” At the time, she was just starting law school.
Deborah Felice, the associate dean for students at the law school, said she met with Ruskiewicz at her request on Sept. 25, 2008, to discuss how to handle the messages.
“She said she was very upset because she was pursuing a pardon and the DA she was working with was sending her these text messages that were basically stalking her,” Felice said, adding that she was shown some of the messages.
Felice said she and Ruskiewicz met with a university lawyer five days later. They decided the best course of action was to ignore Kratz and hope he would go away. Felice said she spoke with Ruskiewicz weeks later and the messages had stopped, and “that’s the last I heard of it until this morning,” when she saw a segment about Kratz on national TV.
“I heard, ‘Wisconsin DA sexting’ and I nearly died,” she said. “I thought, this has to be the same guy. It’s way out of line.”
Richard Ginkowski, assistant district attorney in Kenosha County, said Ruskiewicz told her about Kratz’s behavior when they met in his office in June 2009 to discuss a possible internship.
“It was a bit of a bombshell,” he said. “It’s something strange, bizarre, unusual, pick your word. And certainly, if true, it was inappropriate.”
Ginkowski said he suggested the first thing to do was make sure Kratz still supported her pardon, which would be critical for a legal career. He said he then explained her options, including reporting Kratz to the Office of Lawyer Regulation. She stayed quiet until Tuesday.
Ginkowski produced an e-mail message showing Ruskiewicz asked him to keep the matter confidential. He said he e-mailed her a recent news story about Kratz and credited her “for having the guts to come forward.”
Michael Fox, the attorney for the domestic abuse victim, said he was investigating claims about Kratz by a fourth woman. He called the allegations by Ruskiewicz “appalling, an outrage.”
“These are very disturbing revelations,” he said. “In both cases, you have the welfare of an individual in your hands because of the power given to you.”
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