Last weekend three were killed and 11 injured in a Saturday-night gunfight on one of Philadelphia’s busiest nightlife streets. Now, the truth is no longer something that can be spun or ignored: Philadelphia is one of America’s most dangerous big cities. While many outside the area bemoan the recent rise in violent crime, it’s nothing new to the Philadelphians who’ve been forced to endure it for the last half decade, despite bearing the highest individual tax burden in the United States.
But with national attention comes questions about whether such violence could have been prevented, and if not, what leaders are doing to address the issue and stop the carnage on our streets. In Philadelphia, these questions rarely get answered – based on the political unwillingness to enforce the law by a district attorney, mayor, and police commissioner who are in lock-step with “woke” ideologies and involved in corruption scandals.
This raises the question: if an elected official will not enforce the law, and people are dying as a result, who has the oversight responsibility to step up and hold them accountable? Unfortunately, at the state level in Pennsylvania, that responsibility falls on Attorney General Josh Shapiro, currently the Democratic nominee for governor.
The incident at hand
Last Saturday night, June 4, three people were killed and 11 others wounded. According to police, several suspects fired at each other through a large crowd of nightlife patrons on the 300 block of South Street in Philadelphia. Police have identified the three victims killed, and said the 11 wounded ranged from ages 17 to 69 years old. So far, two suspects are in custody and police are currently seeking a third.
After news of the incident broke, discussions erupted on social media with questions about where the police were, given the fact that this is such a busy section of the city. But as videos of the incident emerged showing flashing red and blue lights highlighting the area moments before the shooting started, it became clear that there was indeed a robust police presence – but that did nothing to prevent the incident.
As more videos started to emerge on Twitter, it also became clear that the police were on the scene as the street was awash with disorderly conduct, physical assaults, and other unlawful behavior that went without interdiction leading up to the shooting.
More alarmingly, a video interview from local station Fox 29 shows moments after the shooting where police officers were attempting a “scoop and run” procedure to transport one of the victims to the hospital. As bystander Eric Walsh observed, the police cruiser was blocked by the unruly crowd chanting “F—k the Police” as the victim lay dying in the back of their cruiser.
In Philadelphia, this horrific event is just another example of the pattern of violent crime that has gotten worse every year since the 2017 election of District Attorney Larry Krasner. Krasner is quite possibly the most famed member of the Soros-backed progressive prosecutor movement. His election was a benchmark in political talking points from New York to California, claiming policing is systemically racist and that we must drastically reduce the charges and pre-trial detention requests filed by prosecutors for those arrested.
To exacerbate the problem, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has imitated the progressive talking points of the District Attorney, instead of using his bully pulpit to speak for the victims of his city’s tens of thousands of violent crimes. Instead of advocating for the proven public safety tactics used by the nation’s fourth largest police department, Kenney replaced his original police commissioner – an African American and 26-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police – with Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, whose largest command was less than one regional division in her new department.
The results illustrate a clear correlation between the controversial policies of a woke mayor, an unqualified police commissioner, and a district attorney violating his oath of office by refusing to effectively prosecute violent crime.
“Our leaders’ reticence to engage in proven strategies stems from the realization that when we implement deterrence efforts in the places where they are most needed, they are not racially equitable…but that doesn’t change the fact that these measures work,” Said Temple University Criminology Professor Jerry Radcliffe in an Op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Black and brown Philadelphians shouldn’t be made to feel like they are over-policed. Equally though, they shouldn’t be made to feel less safe than white residents. But that is exactly what is happening: More than 90% of people shot so far this year are Black or Hispanic, and it is their communities who are bearing the brunt of our failure to find a balanced approach to gun violence.”
Predictably, Philadelphia Mayor Kenney’s response was to blame the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania legislature, which recently reaffirmed a 1994 law preventing Philadelphia from passing the same types of unconstitutional municipal gun laws that conflict with the state, like Chicago and New York.
On Tuesday, Kenney told the Inquirer that, had the shooters on South Street been unarmed, the brawl and ensuing melee could have been “a fistfight.” “There’s lots of social problems we’re dealing with,” Kenney said. “But the issue is: Take the gun out of the equation, and we’re not having this conversation.” Kenney was not pressed to address why the numerous officers on the scene did little to control the unruly crowd taking over the streets and breaking into the fistfights that led to the gunfight.
Even more telling is the fact that, while Philadelphia’s mayor and district attorney are blaming gun laws for the skyrocketing violent crime in their city, the statistics show a steady decline in the enforcement of existing gun laws since they were elected.
So where’s the oversight?
If the city officials are derelict in their duty to provide effective public safety and law enforcement to their citizens, who sits higher up on the food chain to provide oversight and accountability for them? In Philadelphia, this falls on the Pennsylvania Attorney General and United States Attorney’s Office. While the United States Attorney’s Office has stretched its limited resources and narrow scope of authority to prosecute some violent criminals, the State Attorney General has been almost totally absent from the conversation.
This may have something to do with the fact that the Pennsylvania Attorney General is none other than Josh Shapiro, the long-time Democratic candidate for governor – who favors the talking points of the national Democrats over the local needs of his constituents.
According to his own website, “the Attorney General is Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement official, with a wide range of responsibilities to protect and serve the citizens and agencies of the Commonwealth. The Attorney General is served by a staff of several hundred prosecutors, attorneys, investigators, agents and support staff in offices across the state”. Furthermore, when there are allegations of corruption within a county district attorney’s office, the attorney general is typically responsible for any subsequent investigation or prosecutions that may result.
When Larry Krasner was elected Philadelphia District Attorney in 2017 on an anti-police platform, he made good on his campaign promises by indicting officers while curtailing a myriad of prosecutions for street crimes. Police morale plummeted while crime skyrocketed. This prompted the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to pass Act 58 in 2019, which gives the Attorney General concurrent authority to prosecute gun crimes in the city of Philadelphia. Despite a record 562 homicides recorded in Philadelphia in 2021 with another 221 recorded so far this year, Shapiro has never used the law nor deployed prosecutors to Philadelphia to prosecute these crimes. Worse, Shapiro has vowed to repeal Act 58, in a sign of solidarity with Krasner.
This has drawn the ire of state legislators who sought to renew the bill in January. “Attorney General Josh Shapiro has routinely blamed the General Assembly for violence in Philadelphia,” said Rep. Craig Williams (R-Delaware Co.) during a January press conference outside the Attorney General’s Office. “Yet when given authority to prosecute gun crime in Philadelphia, he said expressly he would not use it. We intend to give him another chance to pitch into the fight.”
Legal authority aside, the attorney general already has the statewide authority to prosecute narcotics and gun laws but has been seemingly absent in that fight. Furthermore, the office of attorney general is seen as a natural stepping stone to the governor’s office, and also has a bully pulpit that Shapiro has not used to counter the soft-on-crime positions of the prosecutors in his state’s two biggest cities.
Similar to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh’s violent crime steadily rose following progressive District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s questionable prosecution of a police officer for shooting a suspect moments after he fled from a vehicle where a drive-by-shooting had occurred.
“Josh Shapiro has the authority to prosecute both gun and drug crimes in cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Gun and drug defendants are the exact cohort of individuals who are driving the spike in homicides,” says former Chester County DA and Federal Prosecutor Tom Hogan. “However, Shapiro has been extremely timid in this area, refusing to prosecute gun and drug crimes aggressively in Pennsylvania’s biggest cities. It is unclear whether his refusal to take up this role is because he has never previously served as a prosecutor or because he is trying to avoid irritating progressive voters as he runs for governor…either way, part of the blame for rising gun violence in the cities rests with Pennsylvania’s pusillanimous attorney general.”
Shapiro’s unwillingness to uphold his law enforcement duties appear to be more a political tactic than a management decision. Despite numerous high profile criminal cases in Pennsylvania’s high crime cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, and York, Shapiro concentrated on cases that struck a chord with national Democratic talking points in advance of his run for governor. This included Shapiro’s lawsuit against the Little Sisters of the Poor as well as stopping the Mariner East Pipeline, which would have connected the massive Marcellus Shale with an Atlantic Seaport.
Covering up for corruption?
Criminal justice policy aside, Shapiro has the responsibility to investigate allegations and patterns of public corruption. In past administrations, the Attorney General actively pursued long-term public integrity cases, which seemingly changed when Shapiro’s predecessor, Kathleen Kane, scuttled a multiyear case where a half-dozen state representatives and a judge were caught on tape taking bribes. Kane herself was convicted of perjury in a politically-based grand jury investigation shortly thereafter, creating the vacancy for Shapiro to run. Now that Shapiro is AG and eyeing the Governor’s seat, questions on why there hasn’t been a state investigation into the pattern of judicial admonishments regarding untruthful testimony by Philadelphia DAs, how two ranking DA’s Office members have both been snared in unlawful traffic stops in road rage incidents, or the relationship between Krasner’s property holdings, unpaid tax bill, and campaign finance violations for both of his elections.
Coincidentally, Larry Krasner was elected in 2017, in replacement of his predecessor, R. Seth Williams who vacated the office in advance of his federal corruption conviction in a similar manner to how Shapiro was elected in replacement of Kane. Instead of bringing greater transparency and accountability to the office, this District Attorney’s administration has been fraught with a myriad of corruption allegations, showing a clear lack of internal oversight in the Philadelphia DA’s Office since Krasner’s first week in office.
These include Krasner’s ouster of over thirty key prosecutors and core staff in his first week in office, without ensuring a transition that would assure the outcome of their cases; then replacing them with attorneys who had no prosecution experience, over half of whom failed the bar exam. Among these was Krasner’s firing of victim services director Tami Levin to appoint one of his donors, Movita Johnson-Harrell, who herself was later convicted of stealing from nonprofit organizations to fund her run for State Representative, as well as Michael Giampietro, whom he subsequently hired for a $160,000-a-year advisory position in the DA’s Office. Krasner’s new hires were trained by Adam Foss, who is currently under investigation in Boston for sexual assault.
In 2021 alone, records show that 130 staff members left the Krasner Administration, 70 of which were attorneys. But like his crime crisis denial, Krasner refuses to acknowledge any office personnel problems.
Then there was the legal complaint alleging repeated pressure on police detectives to change their official statements. Ralph Cipriano, a veteran investigative journalist who runs BigTrial, a Philadelphia law blog, told The Daily Wire “The Philly D.A.’s office is a place where lawlessness reigns. As AG, Shapiro should be prosecuting Krasner’s subordinates for breaking the law.”
This specifically refers to cases published by Cipriano that were investigated, with little consequence. As Josh Shapiro’s Attorney General’s Office is required to investigate state charges against members of the Philly DA’s office, there were instances where they did – but with little consequence. These examples include prominent Krasner aide Dana Bazelon’s arrest in May 2020 for leaving her 4-year-old daughter unattended in a locked car, where this graduate educated attorney received “parenting classes” in exchange for a criminal record as a result. Most notably was the case of DeVonte’ Douglass, a non-lawyer hired by Krasner as a “gun violence counselor”, who paid male prostitute Vernon Harris $500 for sex in a graveyard during working hours, but then shot and killed him after the act was performed. Shapiro’s office ultimately ruled the killing was self-defense, only charging Douglass with misdemeanors for soliciting a prostitute, possession of an instrument of crime, and misleading investigators about the facts surrounding the fatal shooting. Furthermore, the Shapiro AG’s office filed no charges against ADA Joseph Torda, who was accused of the push in robbery of his former lover, sex-worker and internet porn actress, to take her hard drives that apparently contained pornographic recordings featuring Torda.
As Cipriano continues, “What about gun crimes? Couldn’t the AG organize a task force who could work with the Philly cops, and start giving out state sentences to these armed and dangerous criminals who are frequently arrested for more crimes? The Attorney General, if he had any balls, could also be using the bully pulpit to speak out against Krasner’s complete contempt for police officers, and his habit of arresting cops for following the orders of their superiors, like SWAT Officer Richard Nicoletti, and former Inspector Joe Bologna. But our AG has no balls, and in turning a blind eye to the corruption in the DA’s office, he’s clearly as corrupt as Krasner.”
Conflicts of interest
Like any good investigator will tell you, sometimes you have to “follow the money.”
Recent reports emerged linking District Attorney Larry Krasner’s ownership of a building with an $86,000 tax delinquency to rent he received from his own campaign, a political action committee, that was fined for illegally funding his election, and two law firms that may have business with the District Attorney’s Office. But since then, there has been no announcement of any investigation by Attorney General Shapiro’s Office.
If the Attorney General’s office shares a perspective on criminal justice policy with the Philadelphia District Attorney, that’s one thing. But it is another to ignore that Krasner was found in violation of local campaign finance laws, fined, and now alleged to be personally profiting in rent from the very campaign. Why hasn’t the Attorney General at least investigated these matters?
This may have to do with the fact that Shapiro and Krasner are both receiving large donations from liberal donors outside of Pennsylvania, who fund candidates based on ideology and their allegiance to party talking points, as opposed to the dire needs of their local constituents. While Krasner’s support came from New York and San Francisco Bay Area donors allied to George Soros’ progressive prosecutor movement, Shapiro’s donors are a who’s who of the California elite and labor movement. Regardless of motivation, between the record murders and corruption allegations emerging from the biggest city in the state, one has to wonder why Shapiro has not addressed these issues.
What can be done?
In order for meaningful local reform to occur, Pennsylvania needs to follow national best practices and pass laws to enable effective state oversight. For over a year, State Representative Martina White (R – Philadelphia) has had a bill in the Pennsylvania house to remove elected state and local officials from office for egregious acts of mismanagement, or worse, criminal charges.
Rep. White was also the cosponsor of Act 58, which Shapiro refuses to enforce. “Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is an ineffective prosecutor, who has refused to fully prosecute many offenses,” Rep. White said in January. “What is of grave concern though, is his refusal to prosecute our state’s most serious crimes, which he has left a trail of murder victims and devastated communities. Our brave law enforcement officers are out there every day doing absolutely everything that they can to arrest these criminals and protect our communities; and as state officials, we have a responsibility to oversee public safety in our cities and counties. When local officials refuse to act, we must.”
A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP served in both municipal and federal law enforcement, leading to his designation as a nationally recognized subject matter expert in security, public integrity, and criminal justice reform. He has served as a consultant and expert witness and as the Director, Office of Investigations for the American Board of Internal Medicine from 2008-2017.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.