The state legislature may yet rid Philadelphia of progressive DA Larry Krasner.
The House impeachment managers filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court asking it to overturn a Commonwealth Court decision to stop the impeachment. The House voted to impeach Krasner in November 2022.
Under Krasner’s watch, murders and carjackings have skyrocketed in the City of Brotherly Love. Retail theft has jumped due to a non-prosecution policy that has businesses abandoning the city after seeing their bottom lines plummet.
But policy questions are not what is alleged by the impeachment managers. Rather, they allege actual criminal conduct.
Former federal prosecutor and Marine JAG state Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chadds Ford), the lead impeachment manager, talked to the DVJournal Wednesday about the charges against Krasner.
The seven articles of impeachment ranged from lying to a grand jury, lying to the state Supreme Court, failing to inform crime victims, and lying to a federal court.
“We’ve been saying from the beginning that this conduct is unlawful,” said Williams. “Not just that we think that Larry Krasner has not done a fine job as the district attorney, but he has conducted himself in unlawful ways.”
One case that the House managers document in the impeachment appeal is about a Philadelphia police officer, Ryan Pownall, that raised concerns about “prosecutorial misconduct,” including hiding information from a grand jury and a trial judge.
Justice Kevin Dougherty, who recused himself from the appeal, wrote that in the Pownall case, prosecutors had engaged in conduct “worrisome coming from any litigant” but “even more concerning” coming from a prosecutor. There was an “intentional, deliberate choice not to inform the grand jurors about the justification defense” available to Officer Pownall. Further, the prosecution appeared to be “driven by a win-at-all-cost office culture” that treats police officers differently from other defendants.
“It is a crime in the state of Pennsylvania to use your official office to suppress or oppress someone’s legal rights,” said Williams. “It’s called official oppression under Title 18, or conspiracy to do that, or solicitation to do that. In other words, telling one of your subordinates to go do certain things.”
Another case the impeachment managers cite is a federal death penalty case where the prosecutors withheld information from the judge and the victim’s family, said Williams.
“Using your official office to oppress someone else’s legal rights in Pennsylvania constitutes a crime under Title 18, and that’s what I intend to prove,” said Williams.
If the Supreme Court rules in their favor, the next step is to have a trial before the state Senate. And if two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict Krasner, he would be removed from office.
The DVJournal asked Williams what would happen if Krasner refused to leave office. Williams said they would file for a writ with the court to make him go.
“That would be the ultimate act of civil disobedience.”
Many people note Krasner was twice elected to office and question whether the legislature should be getting involved.
“So is that to suggest that once somebody’s elected to office, they can’t commit a crime or they can’t misbehave while in office?” asked Williams. “I think the answer to that’s clearly no. I mean, we, we’ve tried plenty of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia officials for their illegal activity. So being elected to office is not some sort of cloak of immunity.”
Krasner has yet to respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
But lawyers for Krasner had previously filed documents contending the impeachment was unconstitutional and denying any charges the House brought against him.
Krasner is a former defense lawyer whose progressive policies align with a group of other district attorneys whose campaigns were also funded by money from Democratic mega-donor George Soros. When the impeachment articles were introduced by state Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia), Krasner claimed the action was “devastating to democracy, and it shows how far toward fascism the Republican Party is creeping.”
White justified impeachment by saying at that time, “The information contained in the most recent preliminary report was so egregious to me I felt compelled to drop these articles of impeachment,” referencing an interim report that outlined findings but did not include a recommendation of impeachment. “Mr. Krasner has proven himself derelict in his duties as the Philadelphia district attorney by inappropriately using prosecutorial discretion to act against the public’s interest.”