Philadelphia District Attorney Krasner Impeached; Pennsylvania Senate to Conduct Trial

Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (D) by a vote of 107 to 85.

All Democrats in attendance opposed the resolution introduced by State Representative Martina White (R-Philadelphia). All present Republicans supported it except for State Representative Mike Puskaric (R-Jefferson Hills), who is retiring at the end of the term. 

The matter now goes to the state Senate, which will conduct a trial to consider Krasner’s potential removal from office. Twenty-nine members of that chamber affiliate with the Republican caucus, but they still fall short of the two-thirds needed for removal, meaning some Democrats will need to vote in favor to effect that outcome.

Opponents of these proceedings noted the far-left prosecutor has not been accused of any crime. Republicans countered that the Pennsylvania Constitution permits impeachment for “any misbehavior in office.” They consider Krasner’s frequent unwillingness to pursue cases against recidivistic, violent criminals a willful dereliction that has caused Philadelphia’s homicide and other crime rates to skyrocket since he became district attorney in 2018. 

“In his haste to radically reinvent the role of district attorney into something far different than what was empowered by the legislature, Mr. Krasner has usurped our authority by not prosecuting certain crimes this body has specifically directed those in his position to pursue,” White told colleagues on the House floor. “Mr. Krasner has proven himself derelict in his duties as district attorney of Philadelphia by inappropriately using prosecutorial discretion to act against the public’s interest. He has done this by consistently dropping charges against repeat offenders, refusing to prosecute certain crimes outright and withdrawing or dismissing charges under the Uniform Firearms Act at an abnormally high rate.” 

White lamented the heights to which violence has risen under Krasner’s five years as the City of Brotherly Love’s top prosecutor. So far this year, 459 homicides occurred in the municipality; last year, they set an all-time record of 561. At no point in the 21st century before Krasner took office did the murder rate ever reach this year’s total.

The representative cited sobering data from Krasner’s own office. For instance, only 30 percent of criminal offenses resulted in withdrawal or dismissal in 2016; last year, that percentage reached 67 percent. 

In 2017, when Krasner first ran for district attorney, he campaigned on a platform of greater skepticism toward the city’s police department and a more lenient approach to prosecutions. His agenda attracted the financial support of left-wing billionaire George Soros, whose munificence helped Krasner win what might otherwise have been a more competitive Democratic primary. 

Krasner’s approach to handling offenders was not the only issue impeachment proponents raised during House deliberations. White noted that her chamber held the prosecutor in contempt in September after he refused to comply with subpoenas issued by the bipartisan House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order. The vote on the contempt motion was an overwhelming 162 to 38, with most Democrats joining Republicans in favor. 

In floor remarks, Democrats sought to deflect attention from Krasner’s performance and toward what they deem Republicans’ excessive resistance to more stringent gun legislation such as a ban on semiautomatic weapons, something for which Krasner has called.

“What have we done to slow down the proliferation of firearms?” House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) asked. “We can do so many things. My colleagues have had an endless amount of ideas and suggestions introduced in this legislative session but yet it has never come up for one vote.” 

Speaking after McClinton, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Bellefonte) called his Democratic counterpart’s argument “smoke and mirrors” and observed that Krasner is declining to aggressively prosecute violations of state gun laws already in effect.

“A hundred new gun laws are not going to get the district attorney off his butt in Philadelphia and protect the people that elected him into office,” Benninghoff said. 

Krasner himself issued a response to the legislative proceedings, blasting them as undemocratic and implying they are anti-minority. 

“Philadelphians’ votes, and Philadelphia voters, should not be erased,” he said. “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.”

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Larry Krasner” by DA Larry Krasner. Background Photo “Courtroom” by Karen Neoh. CC BY 2.0.


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