The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee voted on Tuesday 14-8 along party lines, with three members not voting, to send impeachment charges against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner to the full chamber for a vote.
The vote came after a House Select Committee investigation of the district attorney’s actions since taking office in January 2018. The interim reports raised serious questions about the progressive prosecutor’s policies but did not include a formal recommendation to impeach.
Several Delaware Valley representatives played key roles in Tuesday’s vote.
Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia), who submitted the impeachment articles last month, laid out her case to the Committee before the vote.
“Since taking his oath of office, Mr. Krasner has chosen not to exercise his responsibilities as district attorney with fidelity,” she said. “Rather Mr. Krasner has engaged in misbehavior in office and obstruction. Mr. Krasner has proven himself derelict in his duties as district attorney in Philadelphia, inappropriately using prosecutorial discretion to act against the public interest by consistently dropping charges against repeat offenders, refusing to prosecute certain crimes outright, while also withdrawing and dismissing charges under the Uniform Firearms Act at an abnormally high rate.”
White maintained Krasner’s actions, and their contribution to soaring crime in the city, established the “misconduct” element required to pursue impeachment.
Rep. Jason Dawkins (D-Philadelphia) opposed the move to impeach. He told his fellow committee members about the murder of his brother when Dawkins was 13. Instead of castigating the district attorney at the time (Lynne Abraham) for the crime, he accused the General Assembly of not providing adequate resources to communities like his, echoing Krasner’s arguments about rising crime in Philadelphia.
“There is a dereliction of duty among all of us if this is how we’re going to proceed if we’re stating that these crimes in Philadelphia are caused by the lack of effort, or lack of movement, or lack of any of these things that we are holding him accountable to,” Dawkins said. “We can look to some of the root causes that we have talked about in our Philadelphia delegation platform, when we talk about poverty, talk about all the things that come out of poverty, of why some of these young people are making these very, very bad decisions.”
Dawkins’ attempt to table the impeachment charges until a hearing could be held to examine the report and discuss the circumstances surrounding Philadelphia’s crime surges failed by a 14-8 vote, with three members not voting.
Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Horsham) was one of the non-votes. Stephens could not be reached for comment.
Rep. Jared Solomon (D-Philadelphia) called Krasner “woefully inadequate as a leader in the city,” and he called out the district attorney for inadequate training of front-line prosecutors as well as his “failure to provide effective, efficient and predictable enforcement of gun-related offenses.”
However, he opposed impeachment and urged the committee to follow legal precedent, which has never impeached an elected official, nor has ever done so without specific criminal charges. He compared the attempt to impeach Krasner to Republicans’ attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
White rebuffed the argument that impeachment was a violation of the democratic process. “It’s been said that ‘elections have consequences,’ absolutely,” she said, “Who oversees the district attorney in Philadelphia? We do. We’re the only body that can take action to impact this man for what he has done to our city.”
Krasner was given the opportunity to testify before the House Select Committee investigating his tenure but refused the closed-door hearing offered in October. Instead, he took to the Capitol steps, accusing Republicans of a politically-motivated witch hunt and insisted the vote on his fate would occur before the midterm elections.
Following the vote, White told reporters she expected the full chamber vote to happen Wednesday. She also expects bipartisan support for the impeachment articles, as the House had bipartisan support for a contempt charge earlier in the year after the district attorney’s office refused to comply with subpoenas and requests from the House Select Committee. Instead, the district attorney sued to challenge the committee’s validity in Commonwealth Court.