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High-profile Philly lawyer Chuck Peruto is challenging DA Larry Krasner as a Republican

Chuck Peruto, a Democrat-turned-Republican defense attorney seeking to defeat Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner's bid for a second term, cast him as an outsider who goes easy on criminals.

Charles "Chuck" Peruto declares his candidacy as a Republican for district attorney in Philadelphia.
Charles "Chuck" Peruto declares his candidacy as a Republican for district attorney in Philadelphia.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

A. Charles “Chuck” Peruto Jr., a defense attorney with a flair for the flamboyant, pointed Tuesday to the revolving doors at the city’s Criminal Justice Center and said that’s how his clients view the system under District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Announcing his bid for the Republican nomination to challenge Krasner, Peruto cast the DA as an oblivious outsider who hasn’t tried to stem the surge in murders, shootings, and other violent crimes.

“If you don’t believe punishment is a deterrent to crime, then leave,” Peruto said. “Because you’re stupid. Crimes must have consequences.”

Peruto lambasted Krasner for firing experienced prosecutors when he took office in 2018 and then hiring aides with Ivy League pedigrees but little knowledge of Philadelphia. He vowed to rehire Krasner’s cast-offs to create “an elite unit” to handle all gun cases.

One of those fired prosecutors, Carlos Vega, is already challenging Krasner in the May Democratic primary. Peruto said he won’t go forward with his campaign if Vega wins.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think Carlos Vega is going to be able to get the money that it’s going to take to beat Larry Krasner,” said Peruto, a lifelong Democrat who voted for Krasner in 2017 but became a Republican last year, he said, out of disgust for how the District Attorney’s Office now operates.

» READ MORE: The money race between DA Larry Krasner and challenger Carlos Vega kicks into high gear

Peruto said he won the “unanimous” endorsement of the Republican City Committee in a vote Saturday and expects to be the only GOP candidate in the primary. He was joined Tuesday by a handful of Republican ward leaders.

State Rep. Martina White, who chairs the Republican Party in the city, called Peruto “a strong candidate with commonsense ideas” in a statement last month.

While Peruto is well-known in media and legal circles, he acknowledged many Philadelphia voters know him only by tragedy.

The Girl In the Bathtub was how the city came to see the accidental death of Julia Papazian, a paralegal and paramour of Peruto’s who died in his home in 2013 while he was out of town.

That death, detailed in a Philadelphia Magazine story and then recast as a Lifetime movie, prompted a grand jury investigation that infuriated Peruto, who saw it as an effort to smear his reputation. The grand jury in 2014 said it found no evidence of criminality in the death.

Peruto said he “absolutely” expects that incident to be weaponized during the election.

“People love gossip,” said Peruto, vowing to offer a full explanation on his campaign website.