In Tuesday’s column I took a long look at Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner’s controversial record.
It turns out I was joined by Bill Heeney, and by Krasner himself.
Let’s start with Heeney, the one of us least known to the public.
Heeney, 60, is a Republican candidate for City Council At-Large and has some pointed questions about how Krasner runs his office. So does Krasner, but I will get to that in a minute.
An East Torresdale resident, Heeney requested records from the D.A. showing how many and what type of crimes Krasner’s office has declined to prosecute. This is a serious question that deserved an answer, but Heeney didn’t get one.
So he went to court to demand the records.
And he won. The Harrisburg Office of Open Records has ordered Krasner to surrender the records.
Krasner has 30 days to comply or appeal.
“I expect him to continue to stonewall and file an appeal because I believe he doesn’t want to reveal the tremendous amount of police arrests that he has chosen to just throw away,” said Heeney.
Heeney confesses to a personal motivation.
The D.A. declined prosecuting a July burglary of Heeney’s own business, Instant Courier Service. Heeney had videotape of the thief, but the D.A.’s policy is to not prosecute small thefts.
In Heeney’s case, an employee stole a check, passed it to a friend to cash and Heeney was out $2,300.
Heeney is the son of a now-deceased Philadelphia police lieutenant and is deeply offended by Krasner’s refusal to enforce the law.
Now we get to how Krasner is taking a look at his own record.
While Heeney was demanding records, the D.A. launched a dashboard that tracks arrests and prosecutions.
As the Billy Penn story says, this kind of information can be very difficult to obtain.
The Inquirer took a look and found some startling data:
- The D.A.’s office has charged 26% fewer cases this year than through the same date in 2014.
- This year it charged 268 people for retail theft, down from 1,900 five years ago. This may sound good if you are a liberal, less good if you are a store owner who has to eat the losses.
- Of the 143 homicide cases resolved this year, 76% have resulted in a conviction, down from 88% through the same date in 2014.
- In 2018, 78 gun-possession cases were put in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which is sort of a “free first offense” scheme. The previous year there were 12 such diversions, 11 in 2016, 14 in 2015 and 10 in 2014.
Krasner said the website was the most important announcement he has made as D.A., which surprised me. The dashboard is No. 1? You can check it out here: https://data.philadao.com/ Notice it is not an official city address. All of those end as “gov,” not “com.”
Let’s examine the stats I posted above. Is the fact that Krasner has charged 26% fewer crimes than in 2014 good news? Krasner wants to reduce the prison population, but is refusing to prosecute crimes the right way to get there?
He has prosecuted only 14% of retail theft crimes as compared to five years ago. I asked what minimum theft amount would bring prosecution, but received no answer before deadline.
As a matter of fairness, the dashboard recorded nine exonerations of wrongly imprisoned convicts, which is good. Jail is only for actual guilty people.
As to guilty people, the dashboard showed murder prosecutions dropped while homicides increased. You can’t feel good about that.
Even worse, in 2018 Krasner directed 78 gun cases to ARD, five times more than in the previous years shown above.
In Philly, we are plagued by gun crimes yet we have a D.A. who wants to throw the book away, rather than at the defendant.
The story by Julie Shaw lists a handful of gunmen who were given a break, but who then turned around and offended again. As long as lifelong defender Krasner feels he is doing good, the actual bad doesn’t matter. If some innocent person gets hurt, that’s a price you have to pay for “social justice.”
You can’t feel good about Krasner’s affection for defendants and disinterest in victims, discussed here Tuesday.
For example: Mike Poeng was washing his car in front of his grocery store at 54th and Spruce when Jovaun Petterson rolled up and threatened Poeng with an AK-47.
Barehanded, Poeng kept the man away from his wife and kids in the store. He stayed in the gunman’s face until Patterson shot him in the chest.
Poeng survived but is unable to walk or work and has permanent injuries.
It was clearly attempted murder, but Krasner employed the far less serious charge of aggravated assault and agreed to a marshmallow-soft 3 ½ – 10 year sentence.
More bad news came from Philadelphia magazine which asked, “what happens in a major metropolitan city like Philadelphia, when you elect a district attorney whose primary goal is releasing criminals, rather than prosecuting them? The results, however, were all predictable.”
Author James D. Schultz found “gun-related violent crime is rising in Philadelphia.The police force is demoralized. Victims of crimes, their families and advocacy groups feel betrayed.”
In several cases, victims’ families complained that Krasner cut plea deals with defendants without consulting with them, as is required.
Finally, the D.A. was mum on the marginally racist and ageist tweets put out last week by his spokesperson, Jane Roh. The tweets attacked supporters of slain Police Officer Danny Faulkner who were protesting the D.A.’s decision to not oppose a new trial for convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Smug progressive Roh felt entitled to attack the victims, friends and relatives of the dead cop. Matt Wolfe, Republican candidate for City Council At-Large, is calling on Krasner to fire Roh.
Krasner should. Some Philly cops got fired for allegedly racist remarks on social media.
Doesn’t justice require the same penalty for the D.A.’s staffer? Or will Krasner again take the side of the offender, rather than the victim?