The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to impeach controversial Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (D-PA).
Five lawmakers, including three Republicans and two Democrats with constituencies in Philadelphia, formed a committee to investigate Krasner earlier this year. Members of the lower chamber voted by a margin of 107 to 85 in favor of impeaching Krasner, enabling the Pennsylvania Senate to remove the official with a two-thirds majority.
“We put ourselves on the record that we stand with the people of Philadelphia who have been living in fear for their lives and the safety of themselves and their families,” Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-PA) said in a statement. “We are standing up for those who do not have a voice, but long for safety and freedom from fear.”
After assuming his post four years ago, Krasner prioritized aggressive reforms to the criminal justice system, including lax bail policies and reduced prosecutions for certain crimes, prompting hundreds of attorneys to leave his office. Philadelphia witnessed 562 homicides last year, representing a new high, according to data from the Philadelphia Police Department.
Krasner, who overwhelmingly won re-election last year, has nevertheless denied that the city is facing a crime wave. He was elected with the support of billionaire George Soros, who has spent $29 million on district attorney campaigns across the nation over the past six years.
Benninghoff added that Krasner has pursued “purposeful ineffectiveness” by mismanaging his office and exercising “improper use of prosecutorial discretion.” Lawmakers pointed to a rise in repeat offenders walking free, as well as increases in certain property crime offenses approaching 50% since last year.
The resolution filed against Krasner remarked that the official dismissed over two dozen assistant district attorneys upon entering office, many of whom were “senior-level staffers in supervisory roles who possessed significant prosecutorial experience,” and replaced them with new attorneys, some of whom were recent law school graduates and many of whom “lacked any meaningful experience.” Among other policies, Krasner pursued initiatives to “end mass incarceration” and refrain from charging individuals for prostitution.
In a statement condemning the impeachment vote, Krasner invoked the three-fifths compromise and claimed that the predominantly Republican legislature was disenfranchising “Black, brown, and broke” voters from Philadelphia. “In the hundreds of years the Commonwealth has existed, this is the only time the House has used the drastic remedy of impeachment of an elected official because they do not like their ideas,” he remarked. “History will harshly judge this anti-democratic authoritarian effort.”
Crime, homelessness, and other public safety issues have induced several companies to shutter locations across Philadelphia over the past several months. Among other examples, coffee chain Starbucks included the city in plans to nix locations in urban areas, while convenience store Wawa closed multiple locations in the downtown part of the city. The closures from Wawa follow an incident in which dozens of young people pushed over shelves, threw items across the store, and shoplifted snacks in a northeast Philadelphia location.
Soros defended his efforts to support progressive district attorneys in an opinion piece written earlier this year. “Our system is rife with injustices that make us all less safe. The idea that we need to choose between justice and safety is false,” he remarked. “Some politicians and pundits have tried to blame recent spikes in crime on the policies of reform-minded prosecutors. The research I’ve seen says otherwise.”