Philadelphia District Attorney Krasner Issues Answer to Impeachment Summons

As the holiday weekend nears, Pennsylvania state senators are viewing initial written arguments from Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (D) contesting his impeachment. 

The then-GOP-controlled State House of Representatives voted last month 107-85 to try the radical prosecutor in the State Senate to consider his removal from office. Senate leaders then issued a writ of summons to Krasner outlining seven counts against him. Articles of impeachment concern alleged “dereliction of duty and refusal to enforce the law,” obstruction of a legislative investigation against him, improper conduct in two criminal trials, failure to admit conflict of interest, failure to heed victims’ rights, and refusal to prosecute certain crimes. 

Republican legislators say Krasner’s laxity — e.g., declining to pursue bail cash for many crimes, often choosing not to prosecute, and seeking alternatives to jail time for violent offenders — has made Philadelphia a more dangerous city. The writ of summons notes that homicide rates have roughly doubled during Krasner’s time in office. The document cites research by the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center asserting a connection between criminals’ lower risk of prosecution and rising crime in Philadelphia. 

Republicans also allege that Krasner has used his prosecutorial discretion to effectively legalize prostitution in the city by directing his assistant district attorneys not to pursue charges against those paying money for sex or soliciting such business.

“District Attorney Krasner as an elected executive in the City of Philadelphia has no authority to create, repeal or amend any state law,” the writ states. “Despite this clear separation of powers, District Attorney Krasner has contravened the authority of the legislature by refusing to prosecute specifically prohibited conduct under state law. Rather than exercising his inherent discretionary powers to review and determine charges on a case-by-case basis, District Attorney Krasner, in his capacity as the Commonwealth’s Attorney in the City of Philadelphia, unilaterally determined, directed and ensured that certain crimes would no longer be prosecuted and were therefore de facto legal.” 

Other sections of the Senate GOP document note the district attorney’s resistance to subpoenas from the House panel this year considering his conduct in office, alleged failure to disclose evidence against homicide defendant Robert Wharton, alleged misleading of a grand jury in the murder prosecution of former policeman Ryan Pownall and failure to disclose that he had ever represented interests favoring convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. (He had represented a pro-Mumia activist.) 

John Summers, Krasner’s legal counsel, broadly dismissed all of these charges in his answer to the writ.

“For several reasons, most significantly because they do not allege any actions that constitute misconduct in office, the charges in the Articles of Impeachment do not permit the Senate to convict and remove District Attorney Krasner from office,” Summers wrote in his answer. “During his first four-year term, the District Attorney changed the way the office operated in significant ways — just as he promised the citizens of Philadelphia he would on the campaign trail when they elected him by a wide margin in 2017.” 

Summers’ statement boasts of the more hostile posture Krasner has taken toward law enforcement, suggests that imprisonment in the cases Krasner has declined to seek it “leads to more crime” and insists the prosecutor has “implemented reforms that work… and keep communities safe,” despite crime rates skyrocketing. 

Krasner’s trial is scheduled to begin next month. He has filed suit in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court seeking the proceedings’ dismissal, but observers largely don’t expect the conservative court to oblige. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Larry Krasner’” by Larry Krasner. 


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