Jason C. Johnson
Fri, 25 Sep 2020 © APTOPIX America Protests/Thom Carroll/U.S. Attorney's Office/PhillyVoice/April Gamiz/The Morning Call/KJN
US Attorney William McSwain / Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner
U.S. Attorney William McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania blames Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for the rise in violence in the City of Brotherly Love. Krasner's policies, McSwain announced,"create a culture of lawlessness; they leave criminals emboldened; and they have inevitable consequences."Indeed, since Krasner took office in 2018,homicides are up 49 percent and shootings have climbed by 59 percent. If the trend holds, Philadelphia will tally more than 450 homicides in 2020 - the highest count in nearly 30 years.
Crime is spiking precisely because Krasner isn't holding serious offenders accountable. An analysis by my group, the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, found that Krasner is failing to prosecute felony offenses. Compared with his predecessor's average conviction rates, Krasner either dropped or lost 26 percent more of all felony cases. More robbery cases (up 14 percent) and auto theft cases (up 37 percent) were dropped or lost. In drug sales (not possession) cases, Krasner dismisses or loses 55 percent of cases, compared with the 34 percent rate of his predecessor.
In his first two years in office, Krasner dropped or lost 47 percent of all illegal firearms cases - a 42 percent higher rate than the last district attorney, Seth Williams. Krasner won convictions in 21 percent fewer cases. Studies have clearly shown that gun offenders are likely to go on to commit more violent crime. This failure to keep criminals locked up had tragic consequences earlier this year when repeat offender Hassan Elliot (earlier jailed for felony illegal gun possession) killed Philadelphia police corporal James O'Connor.
On taking office, Krasner had released Elliot, who went on to violate parole when police caught him trying to sell cocaine. That same day, Elliot killed a man. Months later, Elliot murdered O'Connor, who was trying to apprehend him.
Krasner is not alone in presiding over rising crime while dropping or losing felony cases at a record rate. In a survey of six jurisdictions where progressive district attorneys serve, every city or county logged a lower overall felony-conviction rate, as well as a lower conviction rate for violent or serious crimes, than did their predecessors. On average, the profiled prosecutors dropped 20 percent more felony cases. Crime has risen dramatically.
In Baltimore, America's big-city murder capital, homicides have increased 65 percent under progressive prosecutor Marilyn Mosby. Our report shows that Mosby drops or loses many more felony cases than her immediate predecessor, who enjoyed a lower crime and murder rate. A felony defendant is 23 percent less likely to be convicted under Mosby. Felons in possession of a firearm are 46 percent less likely to be convicted. Even when they are convicted, they serve less prison time than before.
Independent analyses of other cities bear out our findings. Progressive prosecutor Kimberly Gardner in St. Louis, who infamously charged a couple who brandished firearms at protesters threatening to invade their home, loses at trial or drops cases at an astounding rate. Trial conviction rates fell to approximately 53 percent under Gardner, from 72 percent before her arrival. Gardner is pressing charges in only 23 percent of cases filed by police. The rest remain "pending."
Similarly, a Chicago Tribune investigation confirmed our earlier findings that Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx dismissed 35 percent more felony cases than her predecessor and dropped nearly 40 percent of all felony cases 2019. These offenses include serious and violent crimes like homicides, sex crimes, assaults by gun, and attacks on police officers. Sadly, in the Windy City, Jussie Smollett isn't the only one getting away with crime. Homicides and shootings are up 50 percent over last year as criminals go free.
The media tout many of these progressive prosecutors as righteous crusaders for justice - but in fact, they don't deliver justice to the public or to crime victims. Elected prosecutors like Krasner have a duty to secure public safety. As the results in cities across the U.S. show, failing to prosecute dangerous and violent offenders only begets more crime and erodes trust in the justice system.
[Some colour fonts, bolding and underlining added.].
About the Author:
Jason C. Johnson is president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, which released its report, "Prosecutorial Malpractice," on felony outcomes in July. He previously served as deputy commissioner of Baltimore's police department from 2016 to 2018. Follow him on Twitter: @LELDF_President
Comment: Justice and lawfulness go together as long as there is agreement anchoring this combination and publicly-approved consequences abide. To slack on justice to appease undefined, unwarranted and unjust societal trends, invites chaos and further imbalance. Boundaries and consequences must be both just and firm.
McSwain, appointed by President Trump, had this to say:
"Armed murderers cannot be permitted to walk the streets of Philadelphia in the name of criminal justice reform. The staggering homicide and shooting rates in Philadelphia are proof that the District Attorney's radical experiment has failed. Homicides, shootings and serious violent crime have all skyrocketed in 2020 - from already intolerable levels that existed in 2019 and 2018."
"The federal cases against defendants Tuggle and Kane are the latest efforts by my office to serve as a counterweight to the chaos in Philadelphia created by local criminal justice policies that coddle violent criminals. These policies create a culture of lawlessness; they leave criminals emboldened; and they have inevitable consequences - one of which is a murder rate in Philadelphia that is the highest it has been in nearly 15 years."
Tuggle was charged with robbery, carjacking and fatal shooting. Krasner agreed not to prosecute for first- or second-degree murder in exchange for information that never materialized.
Convicted felon Kane was found in possession of firearm while on probation for his second homicide in Philly. His sentence was dismissed on a technicality. He has again been arrested on a federal charge.
"The violence has been pervasive and it is destroying the soul of the city," McSwain said. "In the last month alone, 48 people have been killed and hundreds have been shot. And the average age of the shooting victims is getting younger. Tragically, the vast majority of the victims are racial minorities. I can't say it any clearer: the District Attorney's policies come at the expense of minority communities."
Krasner said in July:
"In the absence of a cash bail system that allows prosecutors and magistrates to make individualized decisions, my office will continue to simulate a no-cash-bail system by seeking very high bails for the most serious and dangerous offenders and seeking bails that do not require cash for non-serious offenses in order to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in jails during the second wave of the pandemic in Philadelphia."
Krasner joined local leaders and community members in announcing a gun violence prevention collaborative, stressing the need to address root causes such as underfunded schools, limited mental health assistance and a lack of employment opportunities. He has emphasized the traumatization of neighborhoods through a cycle of poverty, violence and an overly punitive criminal justice system.
In his remarks on Monday, McSwain laid the surge in violence squarely at Krasner's feet:
"We can draw a straight line from these policies to the carnage on the streets. My office has examined the circumstances underlying many of the recent murder cases in the city and the inescapable conclusion is that a great number of these murders were made possible by the District Attorney's Office's willingness - indeed, its eagerness - to offer sweetheart plea deals to violent defendants. Deals that allowed those defendants to quickly get back out on the street and kill."