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State lawmakers issued a report criticizing Philly DA Larry Krasner but didn’t recommend impeachment

The report criticized Krasner's administration and record as the city’s top prosecutor, but stopped short of calling for him to be removed from office.

PA State Reps. Amen Brown (left), John Lawrence (center) and Danilo Burgos (right) at a meeting for The House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order at the Capitol on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, PA. The committee voted unanimously to send an interim report to the full House regarding Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
PA State Reps. Amen Brown (left), John Lawrence (center) and Danilo Burgos (right) at a meeting for The House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order at the Capitol on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, PA. The committee voted unanimously to send an interim report to the full House regarding Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.Read moreErin Blewett

HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania House committee searching for grounds to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner issued what it called an interim report Monday, criticizing his administration and record as the city’s top prosecutor.

But the committee stopped short of calling for Krasner to be removed from office, and did not suggest that lawmakers should begin that process by holding an impeachment vote — an outcome even Krasner said he expected.

Instead, the 63-page report took aim at Krasner’s tenure, highlighting issues including a declining conviction rate, an increasing number of firearms cases being withdrawn or dismissed, and high staff turnover, seeking to link those issues and others to the city’s ongoing gun violence crisis.

State Rep. John Lawrence, a Chester County Republican and the committee’s chair, said the panel released the report “because the work of the committee has been ongoing and quite frankly, we’ve come to the point where there is so much that needs to be talked about and needs to be put before policymakers not just in this building, but in other buildings, including the City Hall in Philadelphia.”

The committee voted 5-0 to send the report to the full chamber. The House voted 189-11 Monday evening to accept it, a procedural step that occurred without members commenting on the document or its findings.

It was not immediately clear how, or if, the committee’s report might influence any decision by lawmakers on when or whether they might seek to impeach Krasner. Lawrence said the committee would continue its investigation and prepare a final report before the end of the legislative session that will include recommendations.

Monday’s report marks the latest development in a heated, months-long clash between state lawmakers and the city’s DA. The Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order was formed in July, after some in the Republican-controlled chamber said Krasner’s reform-oriented administration was contributing to, if not causing, the city’s surge in gun violence.

Krasner, a Democrat, has denied that while consistently challenging the committee’s validity. He sued to stop it and has called the effort an illegal attempt to overturn the will of Philadelphia voters, who overwhelmingly reelected him last year.

He and his supporters have decried the effort as a politically motivated stunt by a House Republican majority seeking to energize the right before the midterm elections. The GOP has tried to make this election cycle about rising rates of gun violence in cities and Democrats’ response to crime. That’s been especially true in Pennsylvania’s nationally watched U.S. Senate race, which could tilt the balance of power in Washington’s upper chamber.

Krasner’s office late Monday sent several criticisms of the report, including saying it “fails to establish a connection between reported crime incidents and Krasner’s policies because one doesn’t exist.” And shortly after the committee met earlier in the day, supporters of Krasner gathered in the Capitol Rotunda and criticized the group’s work as an attempt to disenfranchise Philadelphia voters.

”I really worry that we are on the precipice of making a mistake that is going to impact our Black and brown communities for generations,” said Rep. Rick Krajewski, a West Philadelphia Democrat. “Not only will it unravel our democracy, but it will continue to lock us in policies that we know have failed our communities time and time again.”

State Sen. Sharif Street, a North Philadelphia Democrat who chairs the state party, slammed Republicans for blocking gun-safety measures — such as expanding background checks or requiring handgun owners to report if their firearm is lost or stolen — saying the GOP “failed us on crime and violence.”

”So instead they have a charade trying to scapegoat the duly elected district attorney of Philadelphia,” he said, “because they are afraid to do what it takes to keep us safe.”

The committee’s report is critical of Krasner’s philosophies and actions, making particular note of the fact that prosecutions on his watch have been withdrawn and dismissed at a higher rate than in years past, including gun cases. It notes that these trends have occurred as shootings and homicides have been on the rise, saying there was “no doubt” that “criminals are emboldened” by a lack of arrests and failing prosecutions.

Lawrence went further in his remarks, saying: “Regrettably, under DA Krasner’s administration and his time as district attorney, we’ve seen a dramatic deterioration in the prosecution rates in the city of Philadelphia and a dramatic increase in crime as a direct result of the implementation of his policies.”

Krasner has said there’s no evidence that his policies have caused the violence spike, and pointed out that homicides over the last few years have also increased in jurisdictions with prosecutors who are perceived as tough-on-crime.

Regarding case failures, the DA’s Office found in a study of gun-possession prosecutions that most dismissals were caused by the failure of witnesses to appear in court or weak evidence.

The committee’s report also highlights issues not directly connected to the prosecutor’s office — such as the Police Department’s staffing shortages, and its low arrest rates in shootings and homicides, which have left thousands of cases unsolved. Krasner has frequently pointed out that his office approves charges in nearly every shooting or killing in which the police make an arrest.

And the report reserves some of its harshest criticism not for Krasner’s prosecutorial performance, but for how he has responded to the committee’s probe, saying his “repeated and ongoing obstruction” of its work “no doubt speaks to his failure to integrate and effectuate his progressive policies with any success.”

For months, the committee — which includes two Philadelphia Democrats, Amen Brown and Danilo Burgos — has wrangled with Krasner over its investigation into his office. The panel subpoenaed his office’s policies on a variety of matters and its records on a criminal investigation into a former police officer who was charged with murder in connection with a 2017 on-duty shooting. (A judge threw out the charges last month.)

Krasner and his legal team challenged the subpoena and the committee’s validity in Commonwealth Court and initially did not comply with the subpoena. The Pennsylvania House then took the highly unusual step of voting to hold him in contempt, with dozens of Democrats siding with the GOP in a 162-38 vote. A week later, Krasner said his office would partially comply with the request.

For the last several weeks, the two sides have clashed over testimony. The committee earlier this month hosted a two-day hearing in Philadelphia that included testimony from the families of homicide victims. Another witness was a state analyst who found convictions on illegal gun cases declined during Krasner’s tenure.

The district attorney asked the committee to allow him to testify, first saying he would only do so in public. When the committee requested that he testify behind closed doors, he offered to do so — but only if he could be provided a recording.

The panel declined his overtures, saying it wouldn’t allow the target of an investigation to dictate the terms.

On Friday, Krasner submitted a written statement to the committee defending his office’s record on handling violent crime and slamming the committee’s approach, calling it “astounding that this committee thinks it is appropriate to undo the will of Philadelphians.”

Any attempt to impeach Krasner and remove him from office would likely be a protracted and litigious affair. The last time the process was used to oust an official in Pennsylvania was in 1994, when state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen was removed from office for making case decisions based on conversations with a lawyer who supported him politically.

Krasner has argued that lawmakers in this instance have not found anything resembling the type of corruption or misconduct impeachment is intended to address, and that the inquiry was instead simply targeting him for ideological reasons.

Impeachment would require approval by a simple majority of the 203 members of the House, where Republicans hold a 111-92 seat advantage. A trial would then be held in the Senate, and a conviction would require a two-thirds vote. In the current makeup of the Senate, removal would require a vote from every Republican, the lone independent, and five Democrats.