If Mayor Kenney were a media hog, he’d be green with envy because Larry Krasner is getting all the ink.
I can’t think of a newly elected Philadelphia official who’s gotten more coverage than the new DA. I also can’t think of a politician who ran for office on a stronger promise to turn that office upside down.
In his first 100 days, controversies have been breaking like waves on a beach.
The first crested mere days after he took office when he wheeled in a guillotine and lopped the heads off 31 staffers.
Controversy was predictable. As a defense attorney, Krasner spent a lifetime fighting prosecutors and suing police. He promised to revolutionize the DA’s Office. His vision was more about dispensing social justice than racking up a high conviction rate.
He presented a sort of Declaration of Independence in a five-page memo to his staff dated Feb. 15.
Top objectives I like: Reducing the number of people incarcerated, ending cash bail for nonviolent crimes, ceasing illegal use of stop and frisk, ending civil-asset forfeiture, rebuilding the conviction review unit, and charging some cops who shoot suspects.
That’s a progressives’ wish list.
What I don’t like: Prohibiting the death penalty, ceasing prosecution of some lesser offenses, and requiring prosecutors to specify how much it costs to incarcerate someone.
The death penalty should be kept as a bargaining tool in some capital cases. The attorney for the accused Parkland, Fla., mass shooter, for instance, said his client will plead guilty if capital punishment is off the table. I believe some murderers — such as cop- or child-killers — deserve death.
Lesser crimes were not enumerated by the DA but can be determined by reviewing the Feb. 15 directive.
Possession of any amount of marijuana, or buying pot, will not be prosecuted. Ditto for prostitution. Krasner, in effect, has legalized pot and prostitution.
Also shoplifting, almost.
He wants retail theft of less than $500 to be handled as a summary offense, the most minor offense. Restitution will be sought but is not mandatory. The offense can result in jail time, but Krasner’s very fabric opposes incarceration.
I find it alarming that someone caught drunk driving — without a driver’s license — will be steered to a diversionary program rather than jail.
The most bedazzling new rule requires prosecutors to state at sentencing the cost of imprisonment, among other factors. Krasner estimates it costs $360 million a year to house inmates in Philadelphia, or $42,000 for each.
That’s a lot of money, but this smacks of putting a price on justice. DA spokesman Ben Waxman says, no, it’s just accountability with public funds. “We are acknowledging there are costs in the criminal justice system. It doesn’t mean the costs aren’t worth it.”
Maybe we should have a price list posted in the courtroom, showing the “cost” for grand larceny, burglary, attempted murder, sexual assault. Is the DA trying to shame judges into lighter sentences?
This is where Krasner’s channeling his inner social worker collides with his role as a prosecutor.
The revolution has arrived. We are in a Krasnerian experiment of justifying, minimizing, and forgiving bad behavior. If the crime rate goes down, Philadelphia will become a national model.
If it goes up, the revolution will end with Krasner’s head on the chopping block.