Almost immediately after newly-elected D.A. Larry Krasner arrived at his 3 Penn Square office in 2018, he went ballistic, firing experienced prosecutors, including Carlos Vega, whose speciality was homicide. (He and other veteran staffers are suing the D.A. for age discrimination.)
Vega faced Krasner in court just once. “It was a triple murder in a bodega where the mother, father and aunt were killed in front of the daughters,” says Vega. The trial took three weeks, but the jury returned a guilty verdict in an hour.
Vega, 64, had been in the office 35 years, since being hired right out of law school by D.A. Ed Rendell, but it was not Vega’s only job. For 15 years, after finishing up his white-collar day job in Center City, he headed to his blue-collar second job at the huge UPS facility on Oregon near Front.
Why? To be able to earn enough to provide his three children with a Catholic school education, as his mother had done for him and his three siblings — all of whom are college graduates.
Vega calls his mom, Norma, the person he admires most in the world. The devoted son travels to New York every other weekend to help her with shopping and chores.
Norma never finished high school, but she knew the value of education, and she fiercely insisted on it.
A natural entrepreneur, for a long time she owned a bodega in Manhattan, with its back-breaking hours, and then a newsstand in the subway in The Bronx. One job was never enough in the household in which Vega was raised.
His biological father was a Teamster, but his “other father,” as he calls him, “raised me since I was 5 years old. He ran the bodega with my mom during the day,” then after 5 p.m., went to his second job as a waiter.
It was from his parents that he inherited a powerful work ethic and attachment to family. One sister is a school principal, the other is a senior vice president with a Wall Street financial firm, his brother works for Verizon.
After his parents divorced when he was in high school, his father waited tables, worked weekends as a doorman, was in catering at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, and operated a car service from Manhattan to the airports. Carlos helped out in many of the family businesses.
Spanish was his first language — his parents were born in Puerto Rico — and he didn’t learn English until he entered school, which put him behind his classmates. He came from behind and caught up with them.
After cutting his teeth with a range of odds-and-ends prosecutions in Municipal Court, he was promoted to the homicide unit, where he successfully prosecuted numerous high profile cases. Being fired by Krasner — who is one of a number of criminal-friendly attorneys funded by far left billionaire George Soros — was a blow to his pride. Vega had planned on retiring in 2021, living comfortably on two pensions — one city, one UPS — with his kids, a parrot named Juan and his Siberian husky named Miko in his South Philadelphia home. He is divorced.
But watching Krasner — who had spent his life as a defense lawyer with a hatred of police and the D.A. — destroy the office and turn his back on victims really steamed Vega.
He lost only 14 homicide jury trials, he told me, out of almost 450. He knows that 14 number because he thinks of them as failure on his part to get justice for the victims.
While he told me his mother is the person he most admires, he jokingly also called Batman an inspiration. “He fights for victims. He is a super hero, but doesn’t have super powers. We can all be like him.”
But Krasner clearly is not.
Vega criticizes Krasner for not staying in touch with victims’ families.
Even a laudatory report on WHYY had to include (buried at the bottom) some reference to victims’ rights being trampled.
Our progressive mayor actually got on Krasner’s case for being lax on gun cases.
Vega does credit Krasner with job creation. “He created a whole bunch of six-figure positions for lawyers who never go to court,” says Vega.
Running against an incumbent is an uphill race, but Vega — who would be the city’s first Hispanic D.A. — expects support from those disappointed by Krasner after he formally announces his candidacy Wednesday morning.
Homicides are blowing the roof off Philadelphia, street shootings rival Tombstone, but the D.A. seems more fixated on what he perceives as “racism” than on the blood running in the streets.
As Vega notes, most of that blood is flowing from Black victims killed by Black perpetrators. Murderers need to be locked up and Vega could care less about their race.
Vega usually sleeps about four hours a night, a habit he picked up as a youth working extra jobs when he was a student.
The hours don’t bother him. The idea of the guilty escaping punishment does.
“In my entire career in public service, I have been a voice for those who have been silenced by crime. And I look at the city with levels of violence never seen before,” he tells me.
“As a Philadelphian and as a parent, I can’t sit by . . . My children could be the next victim.”