Hate to say I told you so, but real is real. Back in 2018, three months into Larry Krasner’s revolution in ultra-lenient prosecution, I wrote these prophetic words:

Ive written before that many of Krasners reforms — as with those of many of the other Soros DAs — are long overdue. Cash bail does criminalize poverty; mass incarceration, thanks to an ill-conceived war on drugs, has decimated communities of color; the death penalty is disproportionately applied based on race and class. All true. But one has to wonder if Krasner — even more than the other Soros-funded reformers — has over-corrected, and laid the groundwork for an existential assault on law enforcement from within that, by extension, could amount to a jihad on public safety itself.

The piece, like others that have followed through his tenure, diagnosed what was already apparent: Krasner’s inexperience and incompetence as a manager, his unwillingness to work with others, and his tone-deafness (like when he showed up for his first meeting with the then-Council president with a documentary camera crew in tow) — all of it jeopardized even then the most righteous aspects of his cause. You know what happened next. His “best and brightest” ADA recruits came and promptly fled in droves, fed up with the mismanagement and ideology. They wanted to be reformers, yes, but most didn’t sign up to be refuseniks when it came to, say, actually prosecuting gun crimes.

Lo and behold, violent crime and disorder spiked to historic proportions. Krasner’s response? That was the pandemic’s fault. Or Donald Trump’s. Or the police’s. Or then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s. Never did the true believer revolutionary look in the mirror and hold himself up to inspection, though he did release a memoir and a hagiographic documentary in his first term.

Yes, Krasner was reelected in 2021, facing flimsy competition. But he’ll face the voters again next year, this time in a city with a popular black female mayor who has rightly placed restoring order and the rule of law at the top of her agenda. And there are plenty of her allies — most prominently former Councilmember and one-time prosecutor Derek Green — thought to be waiting in the wings to take on Krasner, possibly with the mayor’s imprimatur.

Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen Krasner — rather than having dueling press conferences with the new Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel — suddenly side-by-side with police brass in public to signal their collaboration. And maybe that’s why we got the formation last month of the city’s first Organized Retail & House Theft Task Force, not long after Mayor Parker’s election night declaration that, under her leadership, “you won’t be able to go into a store and steal $499 of merchandise and think it’s okay. We have to have a sense of order.”

In announcing the Task Force, Krasner said he dropped the policy that would have shoplifting under $500 charged as summary offenses because of the “false narrative” it spurred; yet many of his former ADAs tell me Parker’s critique was, in practice, dead-on.

A national moment that may have passed?

Elsewhere, evidence abounds that the progressive prosecution momentum is stalling. There was, of course, the recall of San Francisco’s progressive DA Chesa Bouldin. In Pittsburgh, longtime Allegheny County Prosecutor Stephen Zappala lost last year’s primary to a George Soros-funded progressive candidate, and then switched parties for a rematch in the general election. Despite the county’s two-to-one edge in Democratic registration, Zappala dispensed of his well-funded opponent, a former public defender.

The political zeitgeist has moved. Last month, Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser — a nice analog to Parker — gave a stemwinder of a presentation to her City Council, complete with charts, laying blame for the city’s murder epidemic at the feet of the legislative body and the city’s prosecutor. It riled up voters enough that now two progressive council members face the city’s first ever recall effort.

Most recently, progressives took a shellacking at the polls in, of all places, San Francisco. With a turnout Philly can only dream of — 46 percent — voters passed a slate of pragmatic reforms, including sanctioning more police car chases and drone surveillance to fight crime. “San Franciscans want to make sure our streets are safe,” said one victorious Democratic centrist. “They want better public education. They want a government that works. When did those stop being Democratic values?”

Krasner has to weigh whether his values fit the times, as opposed to, say, Green’s, whose record demonstrates both a commitment to racial justice and a belief in the importance of enforcing the social contract. I’ve written before that, despite all the press, the dirty little secret is that, unlike his predecessor, Krasner isn’t really a reformer. He’s more a non-prosecutor, eschewing reform tools like diversion programs that can make a city safer and give offenders a chance to turn their lives around.

“Consider how Philadelphia has fared in the years since progressive prosecutor Larry Krasner was elected in 2017,” Penn Law’s Paul Robinson and Joshua Crawford, Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives at the Georgia Center for Opportunity wrote last year in Newsweek. “Krasner has filed the fewest cases in his city’s modern history and reduced sentencings by an astounding 70 percent. Meanwhile, homicides are skyrocketing.”

Of course, murder is now on its way down for the second year (33 percent year to date), but Krasner’s own admirably voluminous data reports still show a stubborn unwillingness to prosecute. Case in point: 3,000 fewer prosecutions last year of violent crime compared to 2014, when the city posted a 60-year low homicide rate. Moreover, only 136 diversions, compared to twice that amount under then-DA Seth Williams. Irony of ironies: the DA who went on to serve time in prison himself was more of a systemic reformer than his successor, who is arguably the national face of reform.

This same protocol is in effect across the country, with similar results, as Penn’s Robinson made clear in Newsweek last year:

In Dallas, guilty verdicts for felonies decreased by 30 percent. In Chicago, progressive DA Kim Foxx dismissed all charges against nearly 30 percent of all felony suspects, while the city suffered a 50 percent increase in homicides in 2020, followed by a continuing increase in 2021. Progressive prosecutors have also routinely decriminalized entire classes of offenses. San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin did not secure a single conviction for dealing fentanyl during 2021, even though nearly 500 people died of drug overdose in the city during the preceding year.

Or is this all overblown?

For another perspective, and to check myself, I reached out to Rebecca Goldstein, assistant professor at Berkeley Law, author of the first nationwide empirical study of progressive prosecutors.

“Considerable research out of DA Krasner’s own office has shown decreases in incarceration years, supervision years, use of cash bail, and certain racial disparities,” she correctly told me. “In general, I think the narrative about progressive prosecution on the retreat nationally tends to be overblown. People make a lot of the Boudin recall in San Francisco in 2022, but San Francisco uses ranked-choice voting, and it’s not clear that Boudin could have won office in the first place in the standard California primary system.”

She also points out that recalls of three other progressive prosecutors fell short, though one, Virginia Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj, lost when she stood for reelection last year.

Biberaj could be a cautionary tale for Krasner. She’d been a public defender who, according to Penn’s Robinson, brought only eight percent of domestic violence cases to trial. “When in 2022 a woman was beaten to death by her husband, who had previously assaulted her and been released, many blamed Biberaj’s lax attitude for the death,” Robinson and Crawford wrote in Newsweek.

“There have really only been a handful of electoral losses for progressive prosecutors, and my ongoing research is showing that they win reelection at high rates similar to those won by prosecutors generally nationwide in recent years,” says Goldstein.

It’s a fair point from someone studying progressive prosecutors, but it doesn’t take into account other messages being sent by voters in races across the country. From the election of New York City Mayor Eric Adams to Cherelle Parker to once embattled Mayor Jacob Frey in George Floyd’s Minneapolis, where an ill-fated attempt to defund the police was made, citizens have been saying: Whoa. We might have over-corrected here.

That said, Goldstein does see at least one threat on the horizon for progressive prosecutors. “In my view, the bigger threat is conservative state officials removing them or otherwise undermining their jurisdiction, which is happening in many places, from Florida to Missouri to Texas and Georgia and elsewhere,” she says.

Here, we saw just such an ill-conceived attempt, when the House sought to impeach Krasner, despite there being no claim of “misbehavior in office or of any infamous crime” as mandated by our state constitution. You can’t just impeach a political foe because you think he’s a smacked ass.

Ah, but now Krasner may have handed his opponents an opening. I have consistently praised Krasner’s Conviction Integrity Unit for its record of exonerating falsely convicted inmates or otherwise exposing past miscarriages of justice. But a unanimous ruling last week from the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals kind of calls into question the credibility and integrity of not only Krasner, but his entire office. Moreover, it just may provide his political enemies with the “misbehavior” standard they seek for impeachment. Here’s the opinion’s scathing opening:

Courts rely on lawyers’ honesty; lawyers may not mislead them. But the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office did just that. It conceded that a court should vacate Robert Wharton’s death sentence. Yet in doing so, it did not comply with this Court’s instruction to investigate evidence cutting against Wharton’s habeas claim. Nor did it disclose key facts about that claim. So the District Court found misconduct, directed the Office to be more forthcoming in the future, and ordered District Attorney Larry Krasner to apologize. Because those mild sanctions were well within the court’s sound discretion, we will affirm.

The ruling upheld U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg’s withering 2019 finding that Krasner had “egregiously” misled the Court when seeking to vacate Wharton’s death sentence and reduce it to life in prison instead. Read Goldberg’s opinion, and you tell me if Krasner comes off as a fair-minded public servant. Hell, it turns out his team didn’t even share with the Court that the murderer whose sentence they were there to reduce had actually tried to escape from a courtroom. (Incredibly, they say they didn’t know that minor fact.)

Wharton was convicted in 1984 for strangling and drowning an East Mount Airy couple over a disputed debt after a campaign of terrorizing them. Fast-forward decades; Wharton claimed he’d been a model prisoner and deserved to get off death row. Every DA prior to Krasner had opposed such attempts. Krasner, a death penalty opponent, took the murderer’s side. That’s fine, but it turns out that Krasner wasn’t exactly forthcoming — either that, or he was uncomprehendingly incompetent. Not only had Wharton tried to escape — which a simple search would have revealed — he’d been cited numerous times for infractions while imprisoned. Worse, investigators for the Attorney General’s office cast doubt on the claim made by Krasner’s team that they’d briefed the victims’ family on what they intended to do — and had their support.

Irony of ironies: Many were persuaded by Krasner during the 2017 campaign that the office he was seeking to lead had for too long demonstrated a “win at all costs” mentality. Now here he is, doing the same damn thing — in favor not of conviction, but of indiscriminately lessening a punishment legally imposed by the Commonwealth.

Krasner may be boxed in. Harrisburg Republicans (and probably some Democrats) on one side, newly armed with stunning findings of his own misconduct. And on the other? Black voters fed up with dystopia on their streets, sweeping into office a new mayor who pledges to make public safety job one. If impeachment doesn’t get him, a hand-picked Cherelle Parker ally who doesn’t deem it immoral to prosecute those who threaten the public peace just might.

Larry Platt is the co-founder of The Philadelphia Citizen. The former editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia magazine, a producer of Kelce, and the co-author of the bestselling Every Day I Fight, the cancer memoir of ESPN’s Stuart Scott, he has written for New York, GQ, the New York Times Magazine, and Men’s Journal.

This piece was originally published in the Philadelphia Citizen.

2 thoughts on “Larry Platt: Is the tide turning on Larry Krasner?”

  1. Mr. Platt, Thank you for your article. It was extremely refreshing you included another perspective, had the humility and desire to check yourself, and included the thoughts of Rebecca Goldstein. Do you have a substack or Beehiiv page?

    1. An interesting analysis, but here’s the bottom line. Be it open-air drugs at K&A or criminals returned to the street before the police complete their arrest reports, it gets down to what the voters want. The voters in these third-world cities like Philly love what’s taking place in their city. Why else would they keep voting in these failed officials?

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