PA House impeaches Krasner — what happens next?

Larry Krasner
District Attorney Larry Krasner was impeached by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Metro file

The GOP-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impeach District Attorney Larry Krasner, setting up the possibility that Philadelphia’s top prosecutor could be removed from office following a trial in the state Senate.

In a 100% party-line 107-85 vote, Republicans, potentially in the waning days of their House majority following last week’s election, approved articles of impeachment against Krasner, alleging he has not enforced the state’s laws and acted improperly in a few specific cases.

Now, the articles go to the Senate, which could convict or acquit Krasner in a trial. Lawmakers will likely be called back before Nov. 30, the end of the legislative session, to start the process.

Three representatives — two Republicans and a Democrat — will be selected to present the case to the Senate, which would need a two-thirds majority vote to strip Krasner of his position.

Currently, the GOP holds a 29-21 majority in the Senate, though one seat will flip when the new term begins in January.

“This is the only time the House has used the drastic remedy of impeachment of an elected official because they do not like their ideas,” Krasner said Wednesday in a statement.

“History will harshly judge this anti-democratic authoritarian effort to erase Philly’s votes – votes by Black, brown, and broke people in Philadelphia. And voters will have the last word,” he added.

Krasner, who became district attorney in 2017, was reelected in a landslide last year, facing candidates in the primary and general election who attempted to tie him to the city’s gun violence epidemic.

“This particular resolution is being led solely for one purpose: to disenfranchise those who look like me to have a voice to pick who they want to be duly elected for fairness,” said Rep. Jason Dawkins, a Black man whose district includes Frankford and Olney.

Senators will be looking at seven charges — five additional charges, or articles, were added to the impeachment resolution after it advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Rep. Torren Ecker, a Republican who introduced the amendment, said the charges rely on Pennsylvania’s constitution, which states that an elected official can be impeached for “any misbehavior in office.”

District Attorney Larry Krasner and Mayor Jim Kenney field questions from reporters Wednesday, Sept. 28, at a news conference about a shooting outside Roxborough High School.Jack Tomczuk

GOP members argued that Krasner’s policies have directly caused an increase in shootings and homicides in Philadelphia and that he is subverting state law by his office’s lax enforcement of prostitution, marijuana possession and minor theft cases.

The resolution also argues that Krasner’s office has routinely violated the rights of crime victims and outlines three cases in which he or prosecutors under his watch are accused of lying or running afoul of ethics guidelines.

In one instance, Krasner’s attorneys did not properly instruct a grand jury before charging former Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall with murder for a 2017 on-duty shooting, a judge said last month before dismissing the case.

The articles say Krasner withheld an alleged conflict of interest in the ongoing legal saga involving Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

In the case of Robert Wharton, who was seeking to have his death sentence downgraded, a federal judge ordered Krasner to apologize to the daughter of his murder victims after a probe found that prosecutors had not consulted with her, according to the resolution.

Prior to Wednesday’s vote, Democrats contended that the House has done little-to-nothing to help alleviate Philadelphia’s gun violence crisis.

They also noted that a special House committee established to investigate the District Attorney’s Office has not issued its final report and has indicated that its probe is ongoing.

State Rep. Jordan Harris, who represents part of South Philadelphia, said that GOP leaders have failed to advance gun regulations, such as proposals implementing universal background checks or setting up a requirement to report lost or stolen guns.

“We continue in this body to opine on crime and do nothing about it,” he said. “How can you, in good conscience, talk about violence without looking at the man in the mirror for all of the votes that you put up not to help the citizens of Philadelphia?”

Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff went a step further. While reading aloud recent local crime headlines, he said: “These guns are jumping up and doing this. Remember that. It’s all about the mechanism, not the intent of who’s making these choices.”

Minutes before the vote, Benninghoff, of Centre County, quoted Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, saying that Krasner’s impeachment would bring Philadelphia residents and visitors “a new birth of freedom.”

Philadelphia Rep. Joanna McClinton, who could become speaker of the house in January, had a much different take. She compared the vote to Republican attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“Unfortunately, when you do not like what occurred in the outcome of an election, there has been a decision within the Grand Old Party to subvert the will of the voters,” McClinton said.

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