Is Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner delivering the form of justice that Philadelphia voters expected when he was swept into office?
Two highly publicized cases that made a lot of news last week reveal interesting answers to that question. One case involved a 2017 accident in which a trash truck driver struck and killed a bicyclist in Center City. Krasner, I believe, pleased his base of support by charging the truck driver with homicide by vehicle, among other charges. The other case involved the shooting of an Asian store owner that put him into a wheelchair and caused him to lose his business.
This latter case brought to a head the fear of Krasner’s opponents that he would be weak on crime and indifferent to victims. Shooting victim Mike Poeng was shot in the groin in May during an attempted robbery and nearly killed, and he can no longer walk on his own. For all this pain and suffering, Jovaun Patterson, the convicted shooter, received only 3-1/2 to 10 years in state prison under a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.
Philly.com reported that Poeng claims that the district attorney’s office did not inform him of the deal and the negotiations around it. Poeng also said that a district attorney’s victim-services coordinator visited him just once when he was at Magee Rehab after the incident.
Krasner’s actions and inactions in this case set off U.S Attorney Bill McSwain, who said at a news conference last week that he would charge Patterson under a federal firearm statute that could give him a mandatory minimum of 10 years on top of the state sentence he will serve. He also charged that Krasner’s office is consistently undercharging violent-crime cases, and he took issue with Krasner constantly billing himself as a public defender who has power.
McSwain joined me on my radio show the day after his news conference and talked about all the issues he has with Krasner.
Krasner has "a casual disregard toward victims’ rights,” McSwain said. When I asked him to flesh that out, he pointed out that the district attorney is bound by Pennsylvania state law to stay in touch with victims and inform them about what is going on with their case. He feels that the Poeng case is typical for the modus operandi of Krasner’s office.
We discussed the fact that Krasner has dismissed McSwain’s actions as “just politics." McSwain said he still wanted to work with Krasner. This won’t happen. This is the first of a series of battles over justice and, sadly, Krasner has the pulse of a significant number of people in Philadelphia. There was little outrage over the horrible treatment of Mike Poeng. There was more concern over the case of Emily Fredricks, the bicyclist who was tragically struck and killed in a collision with truck driver Jorge Fretts. Krasner disregarded Poeng but charged Fretts to the full extent of the law because a part of his base believes biker safety has been ignored.
The broader context of this battle revolves around such issues as Philadelphia declaring itself a sanctuary city and the Trump administration’s challenge to that stance. Krasner is the perfect district attorney for city that is ignoring clear-cut laws against illegal immigration.
While the Poeng case represented a clear message from the U. S. attorney, the real battlefield shaping up centers on the city’s plan to enable activists to set a supervised drug injection site where people could use illegal drugs and be assisted medically if they overdosed.
McSwain told me he would stop this, and said he already moved to shut down the site through civil action, but also noted he would take whatever actions he needed to stop this illegal operation. I predict a huge battle.