Krasner tells state committee he wants to testify at hearings

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 and Republican state lawmakers are sparring over the terms of a pair of hearings scheduled next week to investigate rising crime in Philadelphia and the role of the city’s top prosecutor.

Krasner, in a letter to the Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order, said he wants to appear at the meetings and requested that they be relocated from the Navy Yard to a larger, more accessible venue.

He also requested breaking the hearings into separate sections to include testimony from people picked by Krasner’s office and a public comment period.

“It is shocking that someone who refused to comply with a duly-issued subpoena and challenged the validity of the Select Committee in court is now trying to control the process by which that Committee operates,” Pennsylvania House GOP spokesman Jason Gottesman said Thursday in a statement.

The state House of Representatives voted last week to hold Krasner in contempt for not cooperating with the subpoena, which demanded documents related to the DAO’s policies and the murder case against former Philadelphia police officer Ryan Pownall.

Krasner responded with a lawsuit asking the Commonwealth Court to throw out the subpoena and issue an order preventing the select committee from investigating the DAO. This week, Krasner sent the committee documents on his office’s policies.

He has said he attempted to testify in front of lawmakers in Harrisburg before the Sept. 13 contempt vote, and his office said he has not been invited to the hearings, set for Thursday, Sept. 29, and Friday, Sept. 30, at Penn State at the Navy Yard’s symposium room.

“We do not believe that the Select Committee is engaged in a legitimate and proper investigation,” Krasner’s attorneys wrote in the letter, dated Wednesday. “Nonetheless, District Attorney Krasner requests the opportunity to attend and participate in these hearings.”

Committee leaders may offer Krasner the opportunity to testify and answer questions if they believe that is “appropriate” as part of the investigation, Gottesman told Metro.

The select committee is empowered to recommend impeachment, and sponsors of the legislation creating the committee have characterized it as part of an ongoing effort to remove Krasner from office.

Krasner’s supporters and many Democrats have accused those in favor of impeachment of attempting to disenfranchise Philadelphia votes. Krasner was reelected last year by a significant margin.

Republicans and some Democrats fault the DAO’s progressive policies for an increase in the city’s shooting and homicide rate, claims Krasner has repeatedly said are not backed by evidence.

Krasner’s lawyers argue that the Navy Yard is difficult to get to for many residents and said the Penn State symposium room’s max capacity of 150 people is too small.

Instead, they suggested moving the hearings to a handful of other venues, such as Mother Bethel AME Church or the Masjidullah — all of which can hold more than 500 and would be available at no cost, according to the letter.

Gottesman said the meeting had already been advertised and indicated it was too late to change locations.

The committee “should not be allowed to decide, on its own, which individuals are allowed to speak throughout the hearings,” Krasner’s legal team also wrote. Rather, the DAO should be able to select witnesses and those in attendance should have a chance to speak, they suggested.

An agenda or structure for the hearings has not been released.

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