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.