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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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House Select Committee Releases Report on Krasner Impeachment Hearings

No impeachment for Larry Krasner before the midterm elections.

That was the news as the House Select Committee investigating Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (D) released a second interim report Monday.

The 63-page report details the results of dozens of interviews and documents reviewed by the committee. It also describes the persistent resistance from Krasner, who 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 submitted a six-page letter to satisfy the testimony request.

“Rather than collaborate with the Select Committee, the DAO and DA Krasner have put up roadblocks at every turn, even filing frivolous litigation against the Select Committee and its members,” the report’s executive summary reads in part. “DA Krasner’s repeated and ongoing obstruction of the Select Committee’s investigation no doubt speaks to his failure to integrate and effectuate his progressive policies with any success—as an office, in failing to be a collaborative partner with other public safety stakeholders, and as a voice for victims, in failing to competently and successfully prosecute violent criminals.”

As the report details, the district attorney’s office was the only one of six Philadelphia offices to refuse to submit requested documents following August subpoenas. That included the offices of the mayor, sheriff, city controller, and police department. Instead, Krasner filed the lawsuit that remains pending.

The rise in crime in Philadelphia has happened alongside lower prosecution rates. According to the district attorney’s office data, 30 percent of “all offenses” were withdrawn or dismissed in 2016. That number rose to 67 percent last year. And 21 percent of firearm cases were nolle prossed or withdrawn after initial charges were filed in 2021, up from 10 percent in 2016. Groups like the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center, which created two studies for the PPD as part of its response to the investigation, have noticed the decrease in convictions has altered the mindset of those arrested.

“This implies that, even when criminals are caught with a gun, they are swiftly finding out they may not receive as significant a consequence as they had historically,” their findings read in part. “Notably, the likelihood of being arrested is low to begin with. This means that criminals know that their likelihood of getting caught with a gun is slim and, even if they get caught, they feel that they can leave without severe (or any) consequences.”

Matching a theme found through public testimony in September, the report cited interviews reporting that Krasner was not just reorganizing his office under his vision, but he ignored decades of previous best practices and seemingly alienating partners, notably police officers. In addition to changing rules on bail requests and creating a list of officers not to call as witnesses at trial, Krasner instructed the reduction or dismissal of certain charges when they would affect a defendant’s immigration status, especially when relating to illegal immigrants. The report also details the amount and level of criticism the DAO has received from federal and commonwealth judges.

In a statement following the report’s release, Chairman John Lawrence (R-Chester) said the work was not done. A final report will likely come out before the House’s term ends this fall.

“Today’s report is by no means a conclusion of the committee’s work,” Lawrence’s statement reads in part. “The investigation into the historic crime and violence in Philadelphia and recommendations for possible solutions will continue in earnest over the coming weeks.”

Krasner’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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House Select Committee on Restoring Law & Order Takes Shape

The violent crime plaguing Philadelphia appears to be spreading beyond the city limits. Now Pennsylvania House Republicans are taking action in response.

In Upper Darby, two men died of gunshot wounds while riding in a funeral procession when someone in another car opened fire. In Caln Township in Chester County, a drive-by shooter fired at a 20-year-old man, hitting him six times. And in Philadelphia, a group of teenagers beat a 73-year-old man to death with a traffic cone, a crime that made national headlines.

On Monday, House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) named the members of a newly-established Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order. It will investigate the crime crisis. According to a statement, the committee will investigate whether local prosecutors are appropriately performing their duties in prosecuting violent crime and offenses, including illegal possession of firearms.

“This bipartisan group of lawmakers understands that what residents and visitors of Philadelphia are currently experiencing must change,” Cutler said. “I am confident these members will work together to find solutions and hold those in power accountable for allowing crime in Philadelphia to reach the levels they have today.”

Legislators from the Delaware Valley make up most of the committee’s members.

Cutler named these members to the Select Committee: Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster), chairman; Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks); Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland); Rep. Amen Brown (D-Philadelphia); Rep. Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia).

“A bipartisan majority of the House has charged the select committee with a serious responsibility. As chairman, I do not enter this work with any predetermined outcome in mind. The committee will review the facts and follow them wherever they lead,” said Lawrence.

House Resolution 216, adopted with bipartisan support, calls on the committee to investigate rising crime rates, enforcement and prosecution practices in the city, and the use of public funds to prosecute and benefit victims of crime.

The same committee is also eyeing the possibility of impeaching Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over mishandling the city’s rising crime rates. Last year there were 562 homicide victims in Philadelphia. So far this year, there have been 283, down 3 percent from 2021.

Reps. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) and Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington) are glad that members were appointed so the committee can begin its investigations.

“The people of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs have suffered from the prosecutorial negligence of a district attorney who refuses to fully prosecute crime,” White said. “Philadelphia is on track to surpass last year’s record homicide rate. The city is in crisis, and the crime is leaching into the suburbs and throughout the state. I have complete faith in those chosen to serve on this committee. They will listen to those who testify and let the facts take us to the truth.”

“We cannot forget that many lives have been lost and families crushed as a result of inaction and willful dereliction of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner,” said Kail, who introduced legislation to form the committee. “I believe those chosen to serve will take their jobs seriously and weigh the information they gather fairly.”

Some fear the new committee may be a lot of talk but little action.

“Any attempt to shine a spotlight on the violence and disorder in Philadelphia is a good thing.  Unfortunately, a House committee has no authority to fix anything in Philadelphia. The problems of Philadelphia were created in Philadelphia by Philadelphia, and the solutions must come from Philadelphia. This is strictly an issue of local governance (and incompetence),” said Tom Hogan, former Chester County district attorney.

Crime is certainly front of mind for voters in the Philadelphia area. Could this committee have an impact on November’s elections?

Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, said most voters are thinking of their pocketbooks.

“At the moment, voters are most concerned about economic matters, particularly inflation, although I think the issue of crime can be an effective tool for Republicans to use to paint a general picture that the current administration isn’t doing a good job and to feed the narrative that things are going badly in the state and nation,” said Yost. “I also wonder whether the recent Supreme Court decision limiting the ability of states to regulate guns might actually create a problem for Republicans on this issue given the large number of suburban voters who support more gun regulation.”

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