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GIORDANO: The Heart of the City

Widely different views of Philadelphia’s future came into focus last week.

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker and District Attorney Larry Krasner held major press conferences with widely divergent approaches to fighting crime.

Parker announced that Pedro Rosario, a Philadelphia Police captain in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, was elevated to the rank of deputy commissioner, and his sole mission will be to police Kensington. This is a much-needed signal that Parker is going to bring a methodical and determined approach to the shame of Kensington. She said several times on my show that she has compassion for those addicted to drugs, but Kensington will not be an open-air drug market on her watch.

On the other hand, Krasner’s press conference was dedicated to his opposition to the new state law, Act 40. It requires the Pennsylvania attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor who would have the power to prosecute crimes that happen on SEPTA or in the general area of their stations. The intent is not to take away Krasner’s power to prosecute but to add a prosecutor who will enforce laws that Krasner ignores or does not fully charge. This bill had the support of many Democrats in Harrisburg and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Krasner and his supporters said this law suppresses democracy in Philadelphia, and they blamed former President Donald Trump’s influence on Republicans in Harrisburg. Krasner also claimed that his philosophy and methods still have overwhelming support in Philadelphia.

I would challenge that assertion. If Krasner still had that kind of support, then former City Councilperson and Krasner favorite Helen Gym would have beaten Parker in the Democratic primary for mayor. Instead, Parker won because people in many minority neighborhoods in Philadelphia wanted an all-out effort against lawlessness.

The arena where Parker and Krasner will first lock horns is over retail theft. It is clear that Krasner will not prosecute shoplifting under $500. It’s clear that even if the items stolen are over $500, Krasner will not do much about it. This policy has led, in some cases, to a lack of effective police response to these crimes and some businesses, such as Wawa, to either leave Philadelphia or scale back their presence.

Parker and newly-appointed Police Commissioner Kevin J. Bechtel are going to fully prosecute these crimes and periodically inform the public of arrests. They will challenge the Krasner narrative that the police are not doing their job. I believe this is a crime that infuriates people, and they want it to be a police priority.

The secret sauce for Parker on Kensington drug crimes and retail theft is community engagement. She and police officials will meet extensively with communities and will incorporate their ideas. She also will institute massive cleanup campaigns across the city.

Parker does not shy away from a fight.

However, it’s unlikely that Krasner will change his methods. He believes his policies are the best way to lead Philadelphia out of some of the worst poverty in the country. He still has great support in largely progressive neighborhoods that are somewhat insulated from the worst of crime. Some of his base is even excited by the grand experiment he is conducting.

Parker’s targeting of Kensington through engagement and enforcement is the model to use to diminish Krasner’s destructive capabilities. If she can make it work in Kensington, she can make it work anywhere.

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Krasner Tries to Block Law Giving Special Prosecutor SEPTA Crime Cases

Progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner filed a lawsuit hoping to block a bill giving some of his authority to a special prosecutor for SEPTA-related crime.

On his website, Krasner called Act 40 an “unprecedented assault on a locally elected official’s authority and on the rights of voters in the most populous and racially diverse county in the commonwealth.”

Supporters see it as an attempt to increase public safety by punishing criminals the Philly D.A. won’t.

“The Larry Krasner philosophy of non-prosecution is dangerous to law-abiding citizens and music to the ears of violent criminals,” said Rep. Craig  Williams (R-Chester/Delaware), who is also a GOP candidate for state attorney general. “As attorney general, I will get concurrent jurisdiction from the legislature to prosecute violent crime that Larry Krasner will not. We gave Josh Shapiro that jurisdiction (as attorney general) to prosecute in Philadelphia, and he chose to side with Krasner and not use that authority to prosecute. I will use it – aggressively.”

Krasner pushed back on the proposal by pointing out on his website that the legislation was “written by a Republican senator [Wayne Langerholc] whose district in Cambria, Centre, and Clearfield Counties is far closer geographically to Allegheny County than Philadelphia County, and who has baldly stated it intends to usurp the authority of the elected district attorney in Philadelphia County only. District Attorney Larry Krasner has been duly elected by Philadelphia voters twice – most recently in 2021 by a whopping 44 percent margin.”

“Meanwhile, the attorney general who is authorized to appoint a ‘special prosecutor’ for SEPTA – which in effect would cover nearly all of Philadelphia County – is a political appointee who was not chosen by voters.”

Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Armstrong/Indiana) fired back.

“Ensuring public safety is paramount to upholding our constitutional obligation as elected officials. Larry Krasner’s video announcement this morning while shielding himself from questions from the public and press further demonstrates his weak and absent leadership,” said Pittman.

“Act 40 is strong legislation which received bipartisan support by the General Assembly, was signed into law by Democrat Governor Shapiro, and is supported by SEPTA,” Pittman said. “It is time D.A. Krasner stops playing political games and starts working with Republicans and Democrats alike to make sure America’s sixth largest city is safe.”

Another local senator whose constituents ride SEPTA, Sen. Tracy Penncuick (R-Montgomery/Berks), said, “As elected officials, our number one priority must always be the safety of the public. Those who rely upon SEPTA, including many residents of my district, should never have to fear for their safety when using their vital services. Act 40 is a bipartisan, good-faith effort, which was signed into law by Gov. Shapiro to make SEPTA a safer form of transportation for all riders.”

“I hope District Attorney Krasner will rethink his position on Act 40 and join the state Senate, state House, and Gov. Shapiro in supporting and implementing this important commonsense measure,” Pennycuick added.

Attorney General Michelle Henry said her office did not request the special prosecutor but is required by law to implement Act 40.

“It is not the duty of the attorney general to determine the wisdom of the policy underlying Act 40,” she said. “The Office of Attorney General also does not have the power to, on its own, declare the statute unconstitutional — that power rests solely with the judiciary.

“Unless and until a court of law declares Act 40 unconstitutional, the Office of Attorney General is required, pursuant to the Commonwealth’s Attorney Act, to carry out this legislative mandate. Act 40 does not permit any discretion on the part of our agency to appoint a special prosecutor — it compels it.

“Our office has worked hard to meet the mandate to appoint a special prosecutor, but given the narrow requirements set by the legislature, we have been unable to do so. We will respond to Mr. Krasner’s complaint as required by court rules,” Henry said.

Act 40 is just the latest salvo in the war between the state legislature and Krasner. In 2022, the House voted to impeach Krasner, claiming he had failed to enforce the laws in Philadelphia. The Senate did not try the case because it’s been tied up in the courts and is currently pending in the state Supreme Court.

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Former Employee Appeals Ruling in Employment Discrimination Case Against Krasner

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is over, a case stemming from it is pending in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

At issue is how far the government can go in restricting employees’ First Amendment exercise of their rights to practice their religion. Previously, a federal judge sided in favor of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and the city in a religious discrimination case brought by Rachel Spivack.

In April 2022, Spivack, now an assistant district attorney in Luzerne County, was fired from her job as a Philadelphia assistant district attorney after she requested a religious exemption from getting the COVID vaccination. While Spivack asked for an exemption because of her Orthodox Jewish faith, others who were union members were not required to get vaccinated because their contract precluded the mandate, a court brief stated.

“Union membership does not guarantee COVID-19 immunity,” the brief noted.

“Religious liberty should not depend on union membership,” said Lea Patterson, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, who argued the case. “The District Attorney disregarded the law by treating those like Rachel who requested religious accommodation less favorably than those who requested accommodation for other reasons. As the Supreme Court has already made clear, the government is not free to disregard the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty in times of crisis.”

After waiting nearly seven months for a response to her request, it was denied, and she was fired. At the same time, 10 unionized employees and one medically exempt non-unionized employee were permitted to continue working without being vaccinated.

“Spivack’s request was denied when Krasner decided to summarily deny all religious exemption or accommodation requests,” the brief said. “Krasner terminated Spivack’s employment as a result, violating the Free Exercise Clause.”

“Krasner denied all religious exemption or accommodation requests because he believed he was not legally required to grant them,” the brief said.

Despite documentation from her rabbi, Krasner found her request to be “not credible,” the brief said.

“The (District Attorney’s Office) DAO Mandate is neither neutral nor generally applicable for four independent reasons: 1) Krasner possessed absolute discretion in granting exemptions to the Mandate; 2) the Mandate did not apply to unionized DAO employees; 3) Krasner granted a medical exemption to the Mandate; 4) Krasner’s decision to deny all religious exemption or accommodation requests derives from religious hostility. Any one of these is sufficient to trigger strict scrutiny.”

Krasner did not respond to a request for comment. However, in his response to Spivack’s appeal, his lawyers said Krasner changed his vaccine policy as medical advice changed and relied on legal counsel and the 1905 case Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which required smallpox vaccinations.

Krasner argued, “The Court should affirm the District Court’s decision granting summary judgment for District Attorney Krasner on Ms. Spivack’s First Amendment claim because there is no genuine issue of material fact that the DAO vaccine mandate is a neutral and generally applicable policy that satisfies rational basis review.”

And “it is also undisputed that the DAO experienced multiple, disruptive COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the pandemic..(describing COVID-19 outbreaks in the municipal court and trial units). In these circumstances, District Attorney Krasner reasonably concluded, based on recommendations of the CDC and the City Health Commissioner, that vaccination is the most effective and least restrictive measure available in light of the medical data and the DAO’s limited resources,” Krasner argued.

Spivack is seeking damages including back pay and attorneys fees in an amount that would be determined by the court, Patterson said.

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

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PA Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Krasner Impeachment Case

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard nearly four hours of arguments Tuesday in the impeachment trial case of Philadelphia District Attorney  Larry Krasner.

The state House voted 107 to 7-85 last year to impeach Krasner for his conduct in office.

At issue is the left-wing prosecutor’s selective prosecution of various crimes and the increasing lawlessness in the state’s largest city, a situation lawmakers say affects the economy of the entire commonwealth. Krasner is a former defense lawyer whose progressive policies align with a group of other district attorneys whose campaigns were funded by money from Democratic mega-donor George Soros. In San Francisco, voters successfully petitioned to remove that city’s Soros-backed prosecutor, former District Attorney Chesa Boudin. She was removed in June 2022.

Philadelphia Republican state Rep. Martina White led the charge to remove Krasner, bringing crime victims to Harrisburg to protest and having them testify at an impeachment hearing in Philadelphia. The victims claimed Krasner and his employees disregarded their suffering.

However, Krasner appealed his impeachment to the Commonwealth Court, which ruled that it did not meet the standard of “misbehavior while in office.” The House impeachment managers, state Reps. Craig Williams (R-Delaware/Chester) and Tim Bonner (R-Mercer/Butler) then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The state Senate, which was to hold its impeachment trial last January, delayed it pending the high court’s ruling.

Lawyer John S. Summers, who represents Krasner, urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the impeachment on Tuesday.

“There has never been an effort to impeach someone who didn’t engage in improper or corrupt action,” said Summers.

Justice Kevin Brobson suggested the Senate could acquit Krasner without the Supreme Court’s involvement.

“You could raise these very arguments in the Senate,” said Brobson. “The Senate could give you the relief you’re asking…Maybe we could get involved later, or maybe we don’t have to get involved at all.”

Summers said Krasner is already “aggrieved” because of the impeachment, regardless of whether the Senate dismissed the case against him.

“He is the chief legal officer of the City of Philadelphia. He’s got hundreds and hundreds of employees. The fact of an impeachment has seriously aggrieved him. That’s harmed him,” Summers said.

“The damage is done. Impeachment has occurred,” said Summers. “All the time one hears about a president who has been impeached…he wasn’t convicted. That does not stop people from saying he’s been impeached.”

There is now “a cloud over the district attorney,” Summers said.

Summers also argued that because the impeachment happened in 2022 and then a new General Assembly was voted into office before the Senate could hold an impeachment trial, the impeachment should be dismissed.

Krasner was reelected in 2021, and all of his policies were well known, so the effort to impeach him would nullify the voters’ choice, Summers said.

Matt Haverstick, the lawyer for Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, argued the Senate should be permitted to hold the impeachment trial. Impeachment is different than bills that must be passed in the two-year legislative window or become moot, “sine die” does not affect impeachment, which is a different process and written separately into the state constitution, he argued.

Robert Graci, the attorney for representatives Williams and Bonner, asserted the impeachment case should go to the Senate for trial.

“It’s a political issue,” said Graci. “History is replete with political impeachments. It’s part of the system. There’s been talk of giving the courts a role. The commentators say it is not something fit for the courts to be involved with because it’s a political process. There are protections (for the accused), such as the two-thirds vote in the Senate (to convict). That’s among the protections.”

Also, the senators take “a special oath,” he added. They promise to pay close attention and to “fairly try the case.”

Krasner did not respond to a request to comment. Williams and Ward declined to comment. The justices will issue a ruling at a later date.

Sen. Ward to Krasner: Constitution Says You Must Face Impeachment Trial

Impeached Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner filed a lawsuit earlier this month urging the courts to block the state Senate from trying him on the charges levied by the Pennsylvania House.

On Friday, the GOP-controlled Senate fired back with a lawsuit of its own, arguing the state constitution requires them to try the progressive district attorney.

Krasner’s lawsuit, targeting interim Senate President Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and the as-yet-unnamed members of the Senate committee overseeing the impeachment, argued his trial would be unprecedented.

“Never before has the legislature exercised its power to impeach and remove someone duly elected twice for things that do not come close to a crime,” Krasner’s lawyers told the court. “And never before has the statewide legislature exercised its power to impeach a locally elected officer like District Attorney Krasner.”

Ward responded in Commonwealth Court and also filed a “Cross-Application for Summary Relief” arguing the Court cannot hear this matter without the Senate as a party, given that the suit seeks a declaration and order as to the rights of the Senate as a body.

In November, the House voted 107-85 to impeach Krasner, a progressive Democrat, who has presided over skyrocketing crime in Philadelphia. Under his watch, there have been 470 murders this year (as of Dec. 11) and 562 homicides in 2021. The city has seen more than 1,000 carjackings in 2022 as well.

The Senate set Jan. 18 as the date for the impeachment trial.

Krasner argues that as the duly elected district attorney, he is not subject to impeachment by the House and that the impeachment should not cross over to a new session that will begin on January 3.

In response to the House impeachment vote, Krasner said on Twitter: “Philadelphians’ votes, and Philadelphia voters, should not be erased. History will harshly judge this anti-democratic authoritarian effort to erase Philly’s votes – votes by Black, brown, and broke people in Philadelphia. And voters will have the last word.”

In the filing, Ward told the court the Senate is obligated to act upon the articles of impeachment according to Pennsylvania’s constitution.

“In commanding the Senate to try ‘all’ impeachments, the state constitution reflects a deliberate intent to ensure that the Senate’s impeachment function exists independent of its legislative powers,” according to the filing.

Ward also notes there were at least five prior impeachments in Pennsylvania. And if an impeachment is not permitted to go into the next session, a person who committed offenses would be able to walk away on a technicality based on timing rather than being held to account for their actions, Ward argued.

And Krasner, although he claims he is not bound by the legislature’s jurisdiction, “is in a position of public trust and is entrusted with exerting the power of the Commonwealth within Philadelphia County,” Ward’s filing noted.

Republicans said the definition of “misbehavior in office” was left vague so the drafters of impeachment in the House can “define its contours.”

“The context and the whole design of the impeachment clauses show that these acts were to be official, and the unlawfulness was to consist in a violation of public duty which might or might not have been an ordinary indictable offense,” the filing states.

And, conversely, Ward argued that since the Senate has not formed its impeachment committee, Krasner’s lawsuit is too early to be “ripe” for the court to act on.

The House committee that recommended impeachment heard from crime victims who said Krasner’s progressive policies that tilt toward the criminal rather than the victim had, in some cases, led to the deaths of their loved ones by those very criminals.

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PA Senate Sets January Trial Date for Philly DA Larry Krasner

The state Senate is expected to consider three resolutions Tuesday that are procedural steps in beginning the impeachment trial process for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Earlier this month, the state House voted 107-85 to impeach Krasner, a progressive Democrat, who has presided over escalating crime in Philadelphia. Under his watch, there have been 470 murders this year (as of Sunday) and 562 homicides in 2021. The city has seen more than 1,000 carjackings in 2022 as well.

The push to oust Krasner was led by Philadelphia GOP Rep. Martina White, who brought crime victims to Harrisburg to protest and had them testify at an impeachment hearing in Philadelphia.

“The Senate is prepared to move forward with its constitutional obligation to try the impeachment of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner,” said Erica Clayton Wright, spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus.

The Senate will consider action on three resolutions which are procedural steps to begin the impeachment process.

“On Tuesday, two resolutions will set the rules of impeachment and invite the House of Representatives to formally present the articles of impeachment to the Senate on Wednesday. Following the delivery of the articles of impeachment to the Senate, all members of the Senate will take an oath to uphold the constitution for the impeachment trial and the Senate will consider the third resolution authorizing a writ of summons (to) District Attorney Larry Krasner formally notifying him of the charges and directing and answer to be delivered by Dec. 21, 2022.

“The Senate will then recess until January 2023 with the impeachment trial slated to begin on Jan. 18,” Wright added.

White declined to comment on Monday and a spokesperson for the House Republicans also refused to comment, saying at this point they will let the Senate process proceed.

Radio talk show host Dom Giordano, a Philadelphia resident, has been outspoken about Krasner and rising crime in the city. He has strongly advocated for Krasner’s impeachment.

“The trial is on and I have great faith in lead prosecutor (Rep.) Craig Williams (R-Chester/Delaware). “I am turning up the heat on Philadelphia state Sens. (Tina) Tartaglione (D) and Jimmy Dillon (D),” Giordano said.

Krasner responded via social media posts.

“Philadelphians’ votes, and Philadelphia voters, should not be erased. History will harshly judge this anti-democratic authoritarian effort to erase Philly’s votes – votes by Black, brown, and broke people in Philadelphia. And voters will have the last word,” Krasner tweeted.

And he also said via Twitter: “Last week’s impeachment is a shameful attempt to overturn the will of many Philadelphia voters who want a fairer justice system. Our lawsuit challenging the legality of this authoritarian move remains pending in court.”

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Impeach! PA House Filing Articles Against Philly’s Progressive DA

Pennsylvania’s House leadership is filing articles of impeachment against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. The progressive prosecutor has become a symbol of what Republicans call “soft-on-crime” policies that they say have led to the national surge in big-city crime.

On the last scheduled business day before Election Day, Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) filed a resolution that included the articles of impeachment.

The House Select Committee to Restore Law and Order released a second interim report on Monday, which included testimony from public hearings and information from subpoenaed documents and other sources. While the report did not provide any recommendations to move forward on impeachment, it was not the final word from the committee.

White has been involved throughout the impeachment process, attending both days of public hearings in September. She is the lone Republican member of the Philadelphia delegation. During her appearance at the press conference, she cited the 78 percent increase in homicides in Philadelphia since Krasner became district attorney in 2018.

“Larry Krasner is the top law enforcement official who is supposed to be representing the interest of our commonwealth in Philadelphia,” she said at a press conference Wednesday. “His dereliction of duty and despicable behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

She encouraged her colleagues to “put politics aside and do the right thing” in supporting the articles.

Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland) accused Krasner of “prioritizing criminals over victims” with policies that have led to fewer prosecutions and substantially higher dismissal and withdrawal rates of crimes. Ecker served on the select committee and insisted the overall behavior and attitudes of the district attorney’s administration met the threshold of an impeachable offense.

He also described the efforts Krasner used to avoid responding to the charges, saying “our work was met with the worst kind of obstruction and defiance.”

“District Attorney Krasner has failed to uphold his elected duty to enforce the laws of Pennsylvania and protect the citizens of the commonwealth,” Ecker said. “That is the very definition of misbehavior in office, which is contained in our Pennsylvania state constitution.”

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) did not commit to a specific timeline for the voting process. He did note that discussions have occurred with the Speaker’s office and voting days may be added to the calendar and the process may work into the new session next year. However, he flatly denied the accusations of Krasner and others that this is an attempt to influence the upcoming election.

“I believe the people of Philadelphia are no longer free,” Benninghoff said. “Day after day, when I see the news of constantly increasing violence in Philly, I think it’s time to say enough is enough. Philadelphia citizens are prisoners of fear.”

Before the press conference, Krasner took to his Twitter account, decrying the efforts, insisting no crime was committed, and claiming the House Republicans “just don’t think Philly has a right to govern itself.”

“It’s the last day of session before the election. The House could pass gun reform. It could improve our schools. It could work to improve our infrastructure. Instead, it is playing political theatre and trying to remove Philly’s right to vote,” read one tweet.

One of the issues pinpointed during public testimony that was also mentioned in the report was the inconsistent and inadequate enforcement of existing gun laws, notably VUFA cases as handled by the district attorney’s office. Since taking office in 2018, withdrawals and dismissals of cases have increased dramatically in Philadelphia. Many charged who later walk free have been charged with other offenses, including homicide.

The 63-page report released by the committee detailed the results of dozens of interviews and documents reviewed by the committee. It also described Krasner’s reluctance to cooperate with the investigation. Krasner had sued the General Assembly in August in Commonwealth Court over the validity of the committee. His initial refusal to testify led to a bipartisan vote in the House to hold the district attorney in contempt. The report noted Krasner then submitted a six-page letter to satisfy the testimony request.

The committee also listened to heart-wrenching testimony from crime victims and their families who described the callous treatment they received from the district attorney’s office.

There have been 438 homicides in Philadelphia this year and 562 in 2021. The city has also seen more than 1,000 carjackings since this time last year, including one involving Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon.

“When we repeatedly see the extensive criminal histories of those we arrest for violent crime, the question needs to be asked as to why they were yet again back on the street and terrorizing our communities,” Philadelphia Police Superintendent Danielle Outlaw recently said.

If the House votes to impeach him, Krasner would next be subject to a trial in the state Senate, which would then vote on whether to remove him from office.

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Committee Testimony Highlights Conviction Rate Drop Under Krasner

Testimony before the House Select Committee investigating crime in Philadelphia turned away from personal stories and toward data and policy Friday. It was a sharp contrast with Thursday’s emotional stories from families who lost loved ones to homicide.

Witnesses linked the city’s decrease in firearms convictions since 2018 with progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner’s decision to withdraw his office from the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association that same year.

Mark Bergstrom, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, presented the data-rich Comprehensive Study of Violations of Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA). From 2015 to 2020, the study examined arrests and convictions over firearms charges, misdemeanor, and felony charges, with or without additional violence charges.

Bergstrom noted that unlike the other 66 counties in Pennsylvania, all charges in Philadelphia must be approved by the district attorney’s office. As the state’s lone first-class county, it is responsible for over a third of all VUFA dockets. More than half of those are co-charged with violent offenses. The number of VUFA dockets filed, especially those with first or second-degree felony charges, has risen since Krasner took office in 2018. The downward trend from 2015 to 2017 of violent offenses accompanying VUFA dockets reversed from 2018 to 2020.

While the study found statewide guilty verdicts have dropped in the timeframe, the sharpest decline in rates appears to be from Philadelphia. Krasner’s office has seen conviction rates on VUFA charges with first or second-degree felony drop from 88 percent convicted in 2015 to 69 percent in 2019 and 64 percent in 2020. Overall, the VUFA conviction rate in the city is 77 percent in the timeframe studied, trailing the statewide average of 83 percent.

The increase in cases dismissed or withdrawn by prosecutors has been driving down the conviction rate in Philadelphia. The city’s acquittal rates and been rejected by the district attorney’s office, which covers cases withdrawn after the initial filing, are higher than the state averages. The “nolle pros” dispositions rate has jumped from 7 percent in 2015 to 21 percent in 2020.

In reviewing sentences, Bergstrom’s data refuted some of Krasner’s previous claims of securing longer prison terms.

Krasner’s office has secured a lower rate of  VUFA sentences that fall within the state’s sentencing guidelines (28 percent) than statewide (43 percent). Philadelphia also saw more cases fall below the sentencing guidelines (34 percent) than statewide (25 percent). However, Philadelphia saw 5 percent of cases each at the aggravated and Above levels, each above the statewide levels.

Bergstrom described the pattern as “extreme on both ends.” Philadelphia also has higher recidivism rates for VUFA charges within three years.

Bergstrom noted the laws are not consistently enforced across counties at times. “The use of the laws can be spotty,” he said, referring to one VUFA that wasn’t being charged when available or dropped as part of plea bargains.

“Before we start thinking about changing the law, let’s make sure we use it with fidelity, when possible, and make sure it’s not being negotiated away,” he said.

Greg Rowe, executive director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, called Krasner’s decision to pull Philadelphia from the organization “unusual.”

“At the time, the DA told the media that our policies that we support were too punitive and too focused on incarceration. We would obviously disagree on that.”

Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) was pleased with the conduct of the hearing.

“Today was more about the facts. [Bergstrom’s testimony] was very valuable because it provided us intimate details as to the process of the violation of our Uniform Firearms Act,” White said. “What I learned is Philadelphia has three times more gun crime cases that are being withdrawn than anywhere else in the state, and it looks like those types of cases, the offenders, the criminals, are more likely to re-offend.”

The committee has not announced further public hearings.


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Progressive Activists Rally Around Krasner on Eve of Impeachment Hearings

Pennsylvania progressives are circling the wagons around one of their own as a bipartisan committee prepares to convene Thursday to consider his impeachment.

The bipartisan state House Select Committee is expected to hear testimony from witnesses regarding the impeachment of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner at the Navy Yard on Thursday and Friday.

The crime data on Krasner’s watch aren’t in dispute. Last year, there were a record 562 homicides in the city, and as of September 26, another 400 people were murdered this year. Both elected officials and city residents have demanded action. Many blame Krasner’s progressive policies — he’s been called “Philly cops’ worst enemy” — for the rising tide of crime.

Committee members have been asked not to comment publicly about the hearings, said David Foster, a spokesperson for the House Republicans. Krasner’s political allies, however, have been outspoken.

The Working Families Party, a left-wing political organization that endorses candidates at the state and local level, announced Friday it is pulling its endorsements from Democrats like state Reps. Danilo Burgos and Nancy Guenst who voted to condemn Krasner for not responding to the House Select Committee’s subpoena.

And the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity joined a group of legislative Democrats last week to rally on behalf of Krasner, despite the fact people of color have disproportionally been victims of violent crime under Krasner.

“This is directly connected to a historical legacy of people trying to take the votes of Black people right out of our hands,” said the Rev. Mark Kelly Taylor, pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E Church. “If we sit back silently and Larry Krasner is impeached successfully no elected official within the city of Philadelphia is safe in the future.”

Krasner released a statement Monday calling the bipartisan effort “a bad faith, unconstitutional attempt to overturn the 2021 election over my office’s policies of evenly applied and equal accountability for all who criminally cause harm to our communities.”

State Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) is not on the committee, but she has been very outspoken about crime and Krasner’s record. She laid the blame for the hearings at his feet.

“District Attorney Larry Krasner was given ample opportunity to work with the committee but was found in contempt for not complying with a lawful subpoena,” said White.  “This committee is holding fact-finding hearings in Philadelphia and Mr. Krasner’s efforts to instigate his most radical supporters to disrupt the committee’s hearings will not be tolerated or successful.

“Victims of crime who have suffered due to the actions and inaction of the district attorney will not be silenced any longer,” White said. “Whistleblowers should have every right to come forward. What is Larry Krasner hiding?”

White previously led a group of Philadelphia crime victims to Harrisburg to protest Krasner’s lack of prosecution and to press lawmakers to do something.

In his public statement, Krasner also complained about the hearings being held at the Navy Yard which, he says, are inconvenient for city residents to attend.

A spokeswoman for Krasner did not respond to a request for comment.

Before his re-election in 2021, Krasner spoke to the Delaware Valley Journal, blaming the spiking crime rate on the COVID-19 pandemic. And as for statistics on increased gun charges being filed but fewer defendants convicted, Krasner blamed the circumstances of cases that are not provable “beyond a reasonable doubt,” giving an example of five people in a car with a gun in the trunk.

“You have to look at these on a case-by-case basis,” Krasner said.


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GIORDANO: Forget Harrisburg; Hold Krasner Impeachment Hearings in Philly!

My sources in Harrisburg tell me the Select Committee charged with investigating the possible impeachment of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is ling up its agenda in an unbiased and precise manner.

And I’ve learned that the very pronounced manner in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rebuked Krasner on his vision of the legal use of lethal force by officers in his prosecution of Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall amplified the charge that Krasner is biased against cops.

Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty, who has deep Philadelphia roots, wrote a special concurrence to the majority opinion and noted that “a special concurrence is unusual. But so is the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office’s prosecution in this case.”  The justice attacked Krasner’s tactics with specific details and concluded Krasner’s work was intended to deprive Pownall of a fair trial.

Even though Krasner doesn’t seem to value impartiality when it comes to the police, I have a plea to make to the Select Committee to ensure transparency and fairness for Krasner’s preliminary impeachment investigation. Hold the impeachment hearings in Philadelphia!

First, Philadelphia is the scene of the carnage that is making national news, and the two Democratic representatives on the committee, Amen Brown of West Philadelphia, and Daniel Burgos of Kensington represent areas particularly hard hit by violence and general lawlessness.

Second, holding hearings in Philadelphia will curtail the Inquirer from making the tired point that these hearings are just political attacks from people with no stake in Philadelphia.

Third, hearings in Philadelphia will allow more witnesses to come forward to talk about the suffering they have experienced due to Krasner perverting the criminal justice system and his oath of office. It would also make it more convenient for Krasner supporters to chronicle their views of his unusual tactics.

Fourth, Philadelphia is the media capital of the state. Hearings here would force them to provide detailed coverage. In other words, Krasner’s media allies due to competition would have to cover it and maybe even show some of the moving testimony of the survivors of crime victims.

Fifth, there is a possibility that Philadelphia hearings might draw protesters that support Krasner and security might be a concern. So, what? Get enough security and support the free expression of Philadelphians.

Sixth, I think the scenario that I’ve set up, would make it much more likely for Krasner to testify. With tremendous media attention and his world-class smugness, Krasner might jump at the chance to tell us exactly what he is doing. If the rest of the state hears some of the highlights of his vision of his oath of office, there might be more understanding of what he has done to Philadelphia and the need for state action to remove him.

Seventh, if the hearings are held here, it raises the issue of public safety and will result in politicians like Philadelphia City Councilpersons Cherelle Parker, Allan Domb, and Helen Gym and supermarket magnate Jeff Brown to state their positions on Krasner and crime as they gear up campaigns for mayoral runs.

Finally, holding the hearings in Philadelphia would put them on the national map as we head to the midterm elections. Inflation and gas prices are the major concerns of most Americans but the issue of their own and their family’s safety is a top-tier concern. Krasner and the other district attorneys supported by George Soros and other progressives are symbolically on the ballot. Based on the recall of the San Francisco district attorney and probable recall of the Los Angeles district attorney, I think people have had enough.

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