Larry Krasner fights back, rallies support after contempt vote

Larry Krasner
District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks to reporters Monday, Sept. 19, about state lawmakers voting to hold him in contempt.
Jack Tomczuk

District Attorney Larry Krasner is continuing his fight with state lawmakers after the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted last week to hold him in contempt for ignoring a subpoena.

His office on Monday sent over documents related to the DAO’s policies, while maintaining their objections to providing information about an ongoing murder case against a Philadelphia police officer.

Krasner, during a 90-minute news conference Monday, said he offered to testify in front of lawmakers in the minutes before the Sept. 13 contempt vote but added that officials did not respond until later in the day.

Holding Krasner in contempt could give the Republican-controlled House grounds for further action, including beginning a process to oust him from office.

Krasner has cast the entire effort as a political stunt, comparing it to GOP attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“Never in the history of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania — this is centuries — has there ever been an effort to impeach someone for his policies,” he said. “You impeach elected officials for the commission of crimes and for deep corruption.”

The subpoena, from a special house committee set up to investigate crime in Philadelphia and specifically the DAO, was issued in early August and requests information about how prosecutors decide to charge certain crimes, offer plea bargains and reduced sentences and deal with prosecuting police officers, among other situations.

Krasner said many of those policies have been available on the DAO’s website for months, and, in a lawsuit filed in response to the subpoena, his office said providing those documents could hamper its prosecutorial strategy.

Lawmakers from the committee also demanded case files and grand jury documents related to Ryan Pownall, a former Philadelphia police officer who was charged with third degree murder for the 2017 on-duty killing of David Jones.

Providing secret grand jury transcripts and testimony would constitute a crime, Krasner said, and attorneys representing him sent the committee chairman a letter Monday asking for a revised subpoena within 48 hours omitting the Pownall requests.

In July, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against a DAO motion in the Pownall case that sought to declare unconstitutional a portion of state law governing police use of force.

Justice Kevin Dougherty questioned the ethics of prosecutors in the case and indicated he did not think Pownall had been treated fairly. Pownall’s trial is scheduled to begin in November.

Krasner’s team wants the Commonwealth Court to kill the subpoena and prevent the Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order from conducting any further investigation, according to court documents.

The select committee was formed in June “as part of the ongoing effort to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner,” according to a press release published by state Rep. Josh Kail, who introduced a resolution to form the committee.

District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks to reporters Monday, Sept. 19, about state lawmakers voting to hold him in contempt.Jack Tomczuk

Attorneys for Krasner have argued that the state legislature does not have the power to remove him because he is a local elected official.

Critics of Krasner have argued for years that his progressive policies have led to a significant spike in shootings and homicides, which last year reached record levels in Philadelphia.

He has been elected twice, most recently in 2021, when he handily defeated opponents in the Democratic primary and general election who attacked him for allegedly being “soft on crime.”

“We have always said that the point of reform is to make us safer, because justice makes us safer,” Krasner said Monday.

He also noted higher rates of shootings in other cities, including among smaller cities in Pennsylvania.

Though Krasner blamed Republicans for the impeachment push, 10 Philadelphia-based Democratic state representatives voted to hold him in contempt. Krasner suggested that those lawmakers were misled or ill-informed.

“Everybody understands you resolve subpoena issues in court,” he said, referring to the Commonwealth Court case.

The select committee’s next step has not been announced; however, Krasner said he has heard that they will hold a pair of hearings later this month at the Navy Yard.

He told reporters he would be willing to testify and encouraged supporters to organize buses to attend the hearings.

“This may be a time for voters to take it to the streets and make sure that their voices are heard,” Krasner added.

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