Elections have consequences. And in the case of the Philadelphia DA’s office, the consequences are pretty bad. The new district attorney has fired 31 members of the staff, some of them the most experience and upper-level prosecutors in the office, just days after he was sworn in. And he may not be done yet.
Why is this extremely troubling? Because Krasner was one of the district attorneys across the country who came in after being backed by a bundle of cash from George Soros. Soros has been trying to get his candidates in key DA races across the country, flooding the race with money that no local DA would normally spend. And he’s having success, such as with Krasner.
Why is this important? Because it is the DA who controls what prosecutions are pursued or not.
Leaving aside the Soros injection, Krasner has been affiliated with radical groups such as Black Lives Matter, who he has defended. He has sued the police multiple times and he has said he views his mission as seeing fewer people in jail. Now, that sounds like a fine idea, unless they need to be in jail. And his focus is not on the victims.
Imagine restocking one of the most prominent DA’s offices in the country with social justice warriors. That’s what’s on the horizon.
Krasner’s spokesman, Ben Waxman, said the dismissals were part of a “broad reorganization” of the office’s structure and a way to implement a culture change in an institution Krasner frequently criticized during the campaign.
In seeking their resignations, the new district attorney “thanks them for their service to the city,” Waxman said in a statement. “However, he made clear his intention to take the office in a different direction.”
The sweeping change affected lawyers of all ranks and could represent a 10 percent reduction in the number of prosecutors. Names were not released, but current and former employees — none authorized to publicly discuss the moves — said the group included trial attorneys and some supervisor-level staff, many with decades of experience. As many as a third of the office’s homicide prosecutors were asked to leave, sources said.
He intends to remake the office.
The announcement was the first bombshell in what some of his supporters have hoped — and his critics have feared — would be a wave of drastic changes accompanying the installation of the career civil rights lawyer to the city’s top law enforcement job.
During his campaign, Krasner pledged to reduce the number of people behind bars, never use the death penalty, and seek to end use of cash bail — goals that earned praise from fellow Democrats and liberal criminal justice observers, but skepticism or even scorn from other law enforcement officials. After his victory, Krasner reiterated his priorities but downplayed concerns about a possible exodus or mass purging of staff.
While it is normal that there is some change in personal the firings seem to have been done for political reasons, getting rid of people in areas that Krasner personally didn’t like, such as homicide division because they prosecuted death penalty cases.
Not only is it torching the office but the way it was done was nasty, asking them in when the office was closed then telling them to get out immediately without giving them a reason for their firing.
He wasn’t available for comment Friday, and Waxman declined to elaborate on reasons behind individual dismissals. He did say Krasner was in the office during the purge, even though it was officially closed due to the weather.
Some of those let go, who asked not to be identified in discussing their termination, said they were told Friday morning to come to the office as soon as possible. When they arrived, they said, they were escorted by the office’s detectives as they learned their fate — often without explanation — and cleaned out their desks. Several left in tears.
“This was done in darkness,” said one dismissed veteran.
Andrew Notaristefano, a homicide prosecutor and District Attorney’s Office employee for more than a decade, said he had a homicide trial scheduled to start Monday — and that he’d met with the victim’s family Thursday night to prepare. He was at his desk working Friday when a human resources employee took him aside and told him he was fired, he said.
Notaristefano, who secured dozens of murder convictions during his career, said he was given “no explanation.” He requested to leave after prosecuting his upcoming trial but was told no, he said. His request to speak to Krasner was also denied, he said.
Gwenn Cujdik, a homicide prosecutor, said “A lot of us stayed because we were willing to stay and willing to work for [Krasner] and continue to do what we do,” Cujdik said in a brief interview, describing herself as “devastated” by her firing.
Without explanations for the dismissals, speculation abounded about Krasner’s motives. Some suspected he held vendettas against prosecutors with whom he clashed as a defense attorney. Others thought targets may have been picked due to run-ins with Krasner’s onetime peers on the defense bar or his wife, Common Pleas Court Judge Lisa M. Rau, who once oversaw criminal cases.
Richard Sax, a longtime homicide prosecutor who retired last year, said the dismissals appeared “personal and vindictive,” and would cause lasting damage to the office.
“Even if he wanted to institute changes into the core of the system, these people would’ve been instrumental in helping him do that,” said Sax, an outspoken critic of Krasner during the campaign.
Lt. Philip Riehl of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Unit said: “These career prosecutors were dismissed in a classless and callous manner… The entire system lost today.”
Radicals and Democratic socialists were thrilled. Victims of criminals not so much.
And Soros wants to replicate this in other DA’s offices across the country.
[Note: This post was written by Nick Arama]