Two prosecutors fired by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner in his first week in office have sued him and the city, alleging that their dismissals were the result of age discrimination.
Mark Gilson, a longtime homicide prosecutor, and E. Marc Costanzo, a former chief of the Special Investigations Unit, filed a lawsuit against their former boss in federal court in Philadelphia last week.
That brings to six the number of people who have alleged age or race discrimination after being let go as the city’s top prosecutor moved to build an administration of lawyers and others who share his progressive views.
The latest suit follows others filed in September by three other former prosecutors alleging age discrimination — one by former homicide prosecutors Carlos Vega and Joseph Whitehead Jr. and another by Michelle Seidner, who worked in the Economic and Cyber Crime Unit — and a fourth filed in July by Tami Levin, the office’s former director of the Victim Witness Services Unit, alleging race discrimination.
All six former staffers were among more than 30 employees who were called into the office on a snowy day in Janurary 2018 when the office was closed, three days after Krasner took office, and ordered to resign or be fired.
Gilson and Costanzo, both 58 at the time, refused to resign and were told to clear out their offices that day, their suit says. They contend they were targeted because of age.
Krasner’s spokesperson, Jane Roh, said by email Monday: “We do not comment on litigation involving our office. However, I can address hiring and employment in our office generally: All non-represented personnel in the District Attorney’s Office, which includes assistant district attorneys, unit supervisors, and first assistant DAs, are at-will employees who may be terminated at any time by the duly elected district attorney.”
She added: “As District Attorney Larry Krasner himself often says: The coach gets to pick the team and to call the plays.”
In their lawsuit, Gilson and Costanzo said they were replaced by "substantially younger, less experienced attorneys whose work assignments [they] could have easily handled.”
The suit, first reported by WHYY, seeks monetary damages for past and future lost wages and benefits. It was filed by Center City lawyers Robert Davitch and Sidney Gold, who declined to comment Monday.
Gilson also declined to comment. Costanzo could not be reached.
Gilson, who now works in the Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigating and prosecuting complaints against lawyers, had served in the DA’s Office for more than 30 years, including 18 as a homicide prosecutor in which he handled more than 200 homicide cases. After serving in supervisory roles as chief of the Major Trials Unit and the Northeast Division, he became the first director of the office’s Conviction Review Unit. His last position was in the Insurance Fraud Unit.
Costanzo served for more than 10 years in the District Attorney’s Office, first from 1987 to 1993. He then left to work in the Criminal Prosecutions section of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and returned to the DA’s Office in 2013. He most recently worked in the Appeals Unit.