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About how Larry Krasner says he'll reform the DA's office

Check out Krasner’s campaign website here.

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Krasner's take on the District Attorney's office

Guest Commentary: Standing up for Prosecutors

A group of former Assistant DAs urges Philadelphians to vote no on Larry Krasner

A group of former Assistant DAs urges Philadelphians to vote no on Larry Krasner

The Citizen will publish guest articles, like this one, that add to the local civic discussion. To submit, click here.

Dear Philadelphia,

We are a group of former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorneys who hope to inform Philadelphians about the District Attorney’s Office. We can no longer stand by in silence as a candidate who is dangerous to the city gains a foothold thanks to money from a European billionaire. Larry Krasner is not the progressive reform that Philadelphia wants and needs, rather he is a radical candidate with no experience prosecuting crime who is gaining traction by spreading alternative facts about the very office he hopes to lead. We are writing this to shed light on what it means to be an Assistant District Attorney and, in doing so, to reveal the misinformation at the heart of the Krasner campaign.

The District Attorney’s Office is NOT, as Mr. Krasner’s website says, “driven by a win-at-any-cost culture that prioritizes high conviction rates and harsh sentencing over more effective approaches that are proven to reduce crime.” ADAs don’t get paid per conviction or promoted because they received harsher sentences. Some of the cases we are most proud of involve dismissing charges when there was an issue with the evidence or figuring out an alternative sentence for an addict. The DA’s office has literally given awards to prosecutors for EXONERATING people. We have seen a Unit Chief tell an ADA who asked for an unfairly severe sentence in compliance with a mandatory minimum: “That’s not what we do here.”

Because it is not.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office employs 300 prosecutors. They are public servants who represent every race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and come from every background. Women make up over 2/3 of supervisory positions. While their law firm counterparts make more than three times as much money, these ADAs work tirelessly and thanklessly for justice. And when we say they fight for justice, we do not mean that they blindly charge and jail people, as Mr. Krasner would have you believe.

They relocate witnesses who are scared to go home to their block. They hold childrens’ hands while they prepare them to testify against their rapists (while Mr. Krasner calls them liars on the stand). They personally walk families through the harrowing process of a criminal trial—families whose babies have been punched to death, whose daughters have been stabbed to death by their boyfriends, and whose teenagers have been gunned down on the street.

Philadelphians can vote progressive without risking our safety. Literally every candidate running (including the lone Republican) believes in legalizing recreational marijuana. Every democratic candidate believes in reforming the cash bail system, expanding prosecution for police corruption, and overturning juvenile life sentences.

Larry Krasner has stated that the culture of the DA’s Office is to “not divert cases.” The Philadelphia DA’s Office currently utilizes 23 diversion programs (an increase from 5 in 2010). These programs provide alternatives to jail time for low-level offenders—job training, expungements, drug treatment, etc. EVERY SINGLE CASE is reviewed by an experienced ADA with an eye towards sending an arrestee into one of these programs.

More than 34 percent of misdemeanor cases are diverted into these programs, and they are working. The DAO charges approximately 25 percent fewer cases than it did in 2010—over 80 percent fewer juveniles. This is all through the hard work of ADAs who understand these systems, ADAs who have built up the institutional knowledge to make these amazing things happen, ADAs who Mr. Krasner would oust upon arrival in the office to effectuate his “sweeping change.”

Throughout Mr. Krasner’s campaign, he has rarely uttered the word “victim”—the people that the District Attorney’s Office seeks to help. During the “Voices for Victims” forum, the first question was, “What have you done over the course of your life/career that should persuade voters that you are the best advocate on behalf of victims gun violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse?” For Joe Khan, Jack O’Neill, and Rich Negrin, this answer was a softball; each of them has helped a countless number of victims over the course of their lengthy and well-regarded careers. Mr. Krasner could give only two examples—of civil lawsuits he had filed that had nothing to do with criminal justice. Meanwhile, we can think of countless times Mr. Krasner failed to show up for a scheduled trial or requested a continuance, making the court process exhausting and unbearable for victims.

While we have stood up for the ADAs, we can all agree that more changes, improvements, and advancements in the office are necessary. Philadelphians can vote progressive without risking our safety. Literally every candidate running (including the lone Republican) believes in legalizing recreational marijuana. Every democratic candidate believes in reforming the cash bail system, expanding prosecution for police corruption, and overturning juvenile life sentences. Mr. Krasner isn’t the only candidate who believes in ending the death penalty (but, he is the only one spouting false promises about where the money saved would go; the Philadelphia DA has no say over Harrisburg’s budget). There is a way to be progressive without turning a blind eye to the countless communities that rely on the experienced members of the District Attorney’s Office to provide justice and security. Larry Krasner offers no such thing.

Mr. Krasner’s methods of reform are dangerous. He has implied that he wants to replace all management positions and experienced ADAs. Many of the ADAs that Mr. Krasner doesn’t let go will quit, rather than work for someone who has branded everyone in the office a liar before even taking the reins. Some turnover is expected in any new regime, but to lose the institutional knowledge of these experienced ADAs will be a blow that the city will not recover from quickly. While it might be demoralizing to work for someone who is federally indicted, imagine working for someone who has openly demonized what you do everyday. Why work for someone that reviles a career you are passionate about? More importantly, why vote for someone like this to protect the crime victims of Philadelphia?

Sincerely,

Ursula Rouse
ADA East Division 2010 – 2013

Richard Sax
Assistant D.A. 1980-2017
Homicide Unit 1988-2017

Nick Liermann
ADA Homicide Division 2007 – 2015

Christopher Curci
Paralegal, ADA East/Southwest Divisions 2005-2013

Christine Prokopick
Assistant District Attorney 2008 – 2010

Conor Shields
ADA Central Division 2008 – 2015

Guy D’Andrea
ADA Homicide Division 2008 – 2017

Lorraine Donnelly
ADA 2004 – 2015
Homicide Unit

Megan Koneski
ADA South Division 2012 – 2016

Senta Rhodes
ADA South Division 2010 – 2015

Christina Terebelo
Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit 2007 – 2012

Sean Stevens
Former ADA 2006-2007

Header photo taken at a District Attorney debate hosted by Philly Set Go

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We want to be a communal space. But that doesn’t mean you have a First Amendment right to be an idiot. Send us an insulting, offensive and/or wildly off-topic comment and not only will we refrain from posting it -- we will laugh at you before we hit delete.

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