PA Senate moves forward with Krasner impeachment trial

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

State lawmakers, called back to Harrisburg following a Thanksgiving break, on Tuesday approved the first procedural steps to hold a trial for recently impeached Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

But Democratic leaders in the Pennsylvania Senate say the articles of impeachment won’t survive past midnight Wednesday, when the legislative session ends.

Minority Leader Jay Costa, a Democrat from Allegheny County, said that all pending matters cannot legally be carried over into January, when newly elected officials take office.

“There are members of this body sitting here today who will not be returning in January to be part of the process that we’re discussing here today,” Costa said Tuesday afternoon. “If there is such a process, they are here today to vote on rules for a trial they will not be present to adjudicate.”

GOP members argued that the state’s constitution mandates that they adopt resolutions accepting the charges and establishing rules for the trial, which is currently scheduled to begin in January.

“We are obligated to receive those articles of impeachment,” Republican Sen. Joe Pittman said during the meeting.

The resolutions, like the articles of impeachment in the state House of Representatives, passed largely along party lines.

Included are rules for questioning witnesses and presenting evidence that Senate GOP leaders said are based on Congressional processes and regulations used during Pennsylvania’s last impeachment in 1994.

For Krasner to be removed from office, a two-thirds majority must vote in favor of conviction, meaning at least five Democrats and all GOP members would have to find him guilty of at least one charge.

The state House managers – Reps. Craig Williams, Tim Bonner and Jared Solomon – are set to officially bring the articles to the Senate on Wednesday morning; then, lawmakers will take an oath and vote on sending Krasner a writ of summons informing him of the charges.

Krasner will be directed to respond to the allegations by Dec. 21, with a trial scheduled to begin Jan. 18, officials have said.

Seven charges were incorporated in the articles of impeachment, which were approved by the House in a 107-85 vote earlier this month.

Krasner’s progressive policies, the articles allege, have directly led to an increase in shootings and other crime in Philadelphia.

He is also accused of not fully prosecuting prostitution, minor theft and marijuana possession cases and abusing the rights of crime victims and their families.

The District Attorney’s Office acted inappropriately in cases involving former Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall and convicted murderers Robert Wharton and Mumia Abu-Jamal, the articles say.

Krasner has denied the allegations and cast the impeachment as an effort entirely motivated by politics.

His supporters have also argued that GOP lawmakers are attempting to strip away the rights of Philadelphia voters – who have twice elected Krasner, most recently in 2021.

As lawmakers were preparing to debate in the Senate, a state House Committee formed partially to advance Krasner’s impeachment released recommendations as part of its third and final report.

The House Committee on Restoring Law and Order still has not called for Krasner to be removed; however, the body’s chair, Republican Rep. John Lawrence, who voted in favor of impeachment, wrote in a letter accompanying the report that crime in Philadelphia will go unchecked “as long as Mr. Krasner remains in office.”

Committee members, in the document, called for audits of the DAO and for the Attorney General’s Office to step in and prosecute illegal gun possession cases that are withdrawn or dismissed.

In addition, the report urges the state Supreme Court to limit the DAO’s ability to decline firearm charges recommended by police and asks legislators to pass a constitutional amendment legalizing recall elections.

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