Woman accusing Bill Kramer of 2011 sex assault asked about job in 2013
Madison — The woman accusing Rep. Bill Kramer of sexual assault contacted his chief of staff twice about seven months ago regarding a job — communications that could play a role in the criminal case against him.
The embattled Waukesha Republican is facing two felony counts of second-degree sexual assault on allegations of groping a female congressional staffer in Muskego three years ago. The charges issued Friday by a Waukesha County prosecutor come one month after Kramer, 49, was accused of groping a legislative aide and sexually harassing a lobbyist in a separate recent incident after a fundraiser in Washington, D.C.
Kramer already has said he won't run for re-election but is fighting to hold on for now to his $49,943-a-year job against top Republican leaders in the Legislature calling on him to resign or face potential expulsion. Those fellow Republicans say the allegations against Kramer are credible.
Kramer's attorney, James Gatzke, has rejected calls for his resignation and said Monday that the woman in the Muskego incident, which she says occurred in 2011, will have to answer whether there is any connection between the employment communications and her accusation.
"To me that's something that she's going to have to speak to," Gatzke said.
The woman has not responded to requests for comment from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The newspaper doesn't name victims in sexual assault cases unless they agree to be named.
Speaking to a police officer, the alleged victim acknowledged that she had contacted Kramer's chief of staff regarding a job posting but said she had no intention of working for Kramer specifically.
The original employment inquiry from the woman came in the form of an email sent last year to the personal Yahoo account of Kramer's chief of staff, Cameron Sholty. That email no longer can be located, according to an open records response made to Sholty by the Journal Sentinel.
But Sholty did turn over in his records response a Facebook exchange between him and the woman on Aug. 24 and 25:
"I sent you an email to your Yahoo account. Did you get it?" the woman wrote.
"I did," Sholty responded.
"Great. I wasn't sure if the email address I had for you was still current. I would appreciate your thoughts, if you would be willing to share them," she wrote.
At the time, Kramer was running to become Assembly majority leader, a position that he was elected to on Sept. 4. When he became majority leader, Kramer's staff was expanded from three aides to five.
Assembly Republicans stripped Kramer of his title as majority leader a month ago after the accusations of misconduct at the more recent Washington event.
Kramer told a police officer that the woman "had applied for a job" in his office. The records don't make clear whether that was the case.
Separately, an online networking page for the woman lists a recommendation from Kramer, who describes her as a "responsible and hardworking individual" who takes pride in her work.
That same page also lists a recommendation of the woman from Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel — another sign of how Waukesha's close-knit Republican circles are complicating the criminal case.
Schimel already has said he delegated the case to the No. 2 prosecutor in his office because of the close ties Schimel has with both Kramer and another undisclosed person involved in the case. That's an apparent reference to the woman.
Debra Blasius, the deputy district attorney handling the case in Schimel's place, didn't respond to a request for comment.
According to the criminal complaint describing the alleged assault in April 2011, Kramer drunkenly shoved the woman against a car in the parking lot of a Muskego bar, kissed her forcibly and put his hands up her shirt while she told him no and tried to push him away. Later, Kramer forcibly kissed her again, grabbed her groin and tried to look down her shirt, according to the charges.
According to the complaint, the victim didn't go to police at the time to report the incident because she didn't want to embarrass Kramer, the Republican Party and her family. But she did tell Waukesha County GOP Vice Chairman Keith Best as well as a female friend who witnessed Kramer and the woman in the bar's parking lot. Both confirmed to Muskego police that the woman and Kramer had been present at an event at the bar that night and that the woman had later been distraught.
The woman also had an attorney send Kramer a letter stating that he had assaulted her, needed to get treatment for his drinking and should not contact her again. If Kramer continued to mistreat her or others, she would reconsider not reporting the incident, the letter reads.
Sholty declined to comment on whether he responded further to the woman in regard to her employment messages — the records don't show any response from the Kramer office.
The woman did not go to the police when Sholty apparently didn't respond to her messages. Instead, she went to the police about the alleged sexual assault on March 5, just days after the more recent allegations surfaced of Kramer's misconduct in Washington, D.C.
Gatzke said he believed that the woman knew in August that Kramer might soon gain the ability to hire more staff. He said he had no proof that the employment inquiry played a role in the alleged victim's decision to go to the police about Kramer six months later.
"I don't think it's a stretch to think that might be the case. I don't have any information," he said.
Gatzke, a former New Berlin mayor, faces an ongoing ethics case brought against him by the state Office of Lawyer Regulation. He did not respond to emailed questions about whether he is charging Kramer at his normal hourly rate as required by the state ethics law for elected officials.
In conflicting statements to authorities about the alleged assault, Kramer first told a Muskego police detective that he kissed the woman good night and then said, "Maybe I did, maybe I didn't." He said they kissed before in 2008 — something the woman denied to police. Kramer said he was "sure (he) put (his) hands somewhere" but didn't touch her breasts, according to the complaint.
"(The victim) has very nice doctor enhanced breasts. I am not a big fan of those I like the real ones," Kramer told the detective.
Under Assembly rules, Kramer could be reprimanded, censured or expelled by his fellow lawmakers.
But doing so would take a full vote of the Assembly — two-thirds of that house's lawmakers would have to vote as a bloc for expulsion. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who has called for Kramer to resign, is researching the question of expelling him. Vos is meeting with other GOP leaders to discuss the issue on Thursday, a spokeswoman said.
Witnesses have alleged that Kramer hugged a legislative staffer and touched her breasts at a social event after the Feb. 26 fundraiser in Washington, D.C. He also allegedly made vulgar remarks about his sexual prowess to a lobbyist that night and the next day on a flight back to Wisconsin.
The legislative aide has filed a personnel complaint against Kramer. It is being investigated by Mark Kaeppel, the Legislature's human resources manager, and the review is ongoing.
Inside State Politics
Journal Sentinel coverage of the legislature, governor's office and other state politics in Madison and around Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin GAB in final days as state's elections authority (42)
- Lincoln Hills officials failed to oversee rape investigations (11)
- State GOP delegates wary of ‘Dump Trump’ convention maneuver (31)
- Submit questions now for today's live show at noon
- Johnson says he’s running hard, despite trailing in polls (46)