Philadelphia, PA – Within days of being sworn in as the new Philadelphia District Attorney, former defense and civil rights attorney Larry Krasner fired 31 members of the office, The Inquirer reported on Friday.
One third of the homicide prosecutors were fired.
His spokesman, Ben Waxman, said that Krasner “thanks them for their service to the city. However, he made clear his intention to take the office in a different direction.”
“A movement was sworn in today,” Krasner said after he took his oath of office on Tuesday, according to The Inquirer. “A movement for criminal justice reform that has swept Philadelphia…and is sweeping the United States.”
Homicide prosecutor Andrew Notaristefano, who worked for the office for over a decade, said he was given “no explanation” for his dismissal, The Inquirer reported.
Notaristefano said he had met with the family of a homicide victim on Tuesday night in preparation for the upcoming murder trial. The next day, he went to work – even though the office was closed because of bad weather – and was told he was fired.
“I’ve worked very hard and sacrificed a lot to make this city a safer place and to help people,” Notaristefano told The Inquirer.
He said Krasner refused to speak with him to discuss why he was terminated.
Michael Barry, former homicide prosecutor and former chief of the office’s central division, said he was asked to resign his position as deputy of the pretrial division.
January 12 will be his last day.
Another dismissed prosecutor said the terminations seemed “well beyond simple changes when you change administrations,” The Inquirer reported. “You can’t take away that much institutional knowledge and some of the best prosecutors in the city and think that some of the most dangerous people won’t go free.”
“It is unconscionable that within three days of assuming office, and in the midst of a significant increase in murders, that Krasner would begin his tenure by firing homicide prosecutors,” Philadelphia Republican Party chairman Michael Meehan told Philadelphia Magazine. “No consideration was given to upcoming trials and the resulting effect on victims and survivors.”
Krasner spent thirty years working as a criminal defense attorney who specialized in civil rights.
“I have seen, in essence, a system that has completely run off the rails,” Krasner told The Inquirer during his campaign. “A place with a mad zeal for the highest charge, for the highest level of conviction, a culture that can find no flaw in police misconduct, that is drunk on the death penalty. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion for 30 years.”
The anti-police lawyer has also sued law enforcement or government entities for his clients on 75 occasions, The Inquirer reported.
On his Philadelphia Magazine questionnaire about whether “bad cops are sufficiently held accountable,” Krasner responded, “I agree with what Black Lives Matter has said.”
He has boasted about overturning more than 100 convictions of people involved in drug cases, according to Philadelphia Magazine.
Krasner has called police and prosecutors liars in the past, and promised to end “mass incarceration” by starving the criminal justice system.
He has expressed an intent to end cash bail (and any bail policy where poor people are incarcerated pending trial,) vowed not to jail non-violent criminals, said he intended to end an asset-forfeiture program, and has also promised to never seek the death penalty.
He’s also expected to toss cases which involve searches without warrants, even if there was probable cause to search.
His campaign got a huge boost from George Soros, according to FOX News. Soros funded advertisements for Krasner which included “bragging of his work to free demonstrators from Occupy Philly and Black Lives Matter, and his lawsuits against police.”
The firings may be retaliation for political reasons involving the election.
If he fired them for political reasons, it’s likely legal. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s firing of an employee for political reasons. Krasner is in the Third Circuit.
Fellow defense attorney Bert Elmore said that Krasner’s office had already hired 14 new employees, The Inquirer reported.
They declined to comment further on the issue, and didn’t address if the new hires were all defense attorneys.