Krasner impeachment hearings end on gun enforcement

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) –The State House Select Committee investigating District Attorney Larry Krasner and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office held a second day of hearings on Friday.

Committee chairman, Chester County Republican John Lawrence, had strong words for Krasners supporters. Opening the second day of hearings at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, he questioned the timing of a frame-up on Thursday.

“As a mother described the pain of searing loss after the murder of her son to this committee, at the same time supporters of the status quo were literally holding a circus outside the building.”

Lawrence said these supporters sang and chanted, dressed as lions, tigers and zebras.

“This committee will not be dragged into the gutter full of circus animals, when the matter in question is of such importance,” he said.

Krasner, a Democrat, has repeatedly called the inquiry a “political circus”, accusing the committee of abusing the impeachment process to try to violate the sovereignty of Philadelphia voters, who re-elected him last year in a landslide.

The first day of testimony, Thursday, featured relatives and families of murder victims in Philadelphia. The second day focused more on the level of gun crime enforcement in the city.

In police jargon, charges of violating the Uniform Firearms Act are referred to as “VUFA” – for example, someone carrying a firearm without a license or when the law otherwise prohibits them from carrying a firearm.

Mark Bergstrom, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, spent more than an hour testifying about crime statistics in Philadelphia. He pointed to an increase in the number of firearm violation charges that were dropped or withdrawn during Krasner’s tenure: from 7% in 2015 to 21% in 2020.

Chester County Republican John Lawrence, who chairs the House Select Committee, asked Bergstrom what he inferred from this increase: “The question is why is this happening? And is there any basis for doing that or not doing that? »

Krasner’s office said it was concerned VUFA’s charges in Philadelphia were criminal; they see it as too serious a charge for non-violent offenders.

Greg Rowe, executive director of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association, told the committee the group does a lot of legislative and policy advocacy with the legislature to address concerns such as punishment that doesn’t amount to a crime.

Rowe pointed out that Pennsylvania district attorneys enjoy wide latitude when it comes to prosecutorial discretion, so it’s difficult to make general statements without looking at each case individually.

Krasner pulled his office out of the organization, and Rowe spoke about the effects of that — including, he said, a lack of training in Krasner’s office.

Krasner said he thought the PDAA was too focused on incarceration.

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