In our criminal justice system, a prosecutor represents the government and a defense attorney represents the accused, but in Philadelphia there is a prosecutor versus prosecutor scenario.
Following the tragic shooting of two children, which I covered here, William McSwain, the President Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, released a blistering statement that assigned blame for the shootings on the pro-defendant policies of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Mr. Krasner, who was elected DA thanks in part to a huge George Soros donation, was previously a civil rights attorney who sued the Philadelphia Police Department 75 times and represented anti-police groups like ACT UP and Black Lives Matter pro-bono. He was opposed vehemently by Philadelphia police officers during the election.
On Nov. 4, Mr. McSwain stated that Philadelphians were shocked and outraged by the shootings of 11-month-old Yazeem Jenkins, who was shot four times on Oct. 19 in the Hunting Park area of Philadelphia while in a car with his father and stepmother, and 2-year-old Nikolette Rivera, who was shot in the head and killed the following day while in her mother’s arms in her living room in the Kensington area. Yazeem Jenkins remains in critical condition at Children’s Hospital.
“The community is united in its condemnation of these heinous acts –- but we must be honest about what enabled them to happen,” read the U.S. attorney’s statement. “It is the misguided policies of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner that led to these avoidable and heartbreaking tragedies. No amount of excuses or deflection can change this fact.”
According to the U.S. attorney, Francisco Ortiz, who has been charged with the attempted murder of Yazeem Jenkins and is suspected of having supplied one of the weapons that was used in the attack that killed Nikolette Rivera, should have been in jail.
The U.S. attorney noted that Mr. Ortiz had served 10 years in prison on gun charges. He was released in April and he was arrested again in July on gun charges. His bail was originally set at $100,000. He was held for trial after a preliminary hearing, at which point his attorney asked for reduced bail.
“That was the point at which a responsible prosecutor would have stepped in and fought tooth and nail against any reduction in bail. In fact, a responsible prosecutor would have asked for an increase in bail after the preliminary hearing, which had established probable cause for the crimes. Krasner, however, is anything but a responsible prosecutor,” Mr. McSwain said.
“Instead, he is a defense-oriented ideologue who is more interested in looking out for the likes of Francisco Ortiz than he is in protecting public safety. So his office consented to the court slashing Ortiz’s bail in half. At which point Ortiz made bail, was released, and returned to his life of crime. Soon, Nikolette would be dead and Yazeem would be clinging to life.”
According to Mr. McSwain, there are real-world consequences to having a district attorney who cares more about defendants than he does about victims and public safety. When it comes to dealing with violent criminals, the U.S. attorney noted, the public doesn’t need a prosecutor whose overarching principle is decarceration.
“It needs robust enforcement of our criminal laws,” William McSwain said. “That is what will make a difference in our community — and that is what Nikolette and Yazeem and their families deserve.”
As of this writing, DA Larry Krasner has not responded to the U.S. attorney’s statement, although in the past he has called the U.S. attorney’s criticisms of him “political grandstanding and false assertions.”
The battle between the two prosecutors goes beyond public statements.
This past February, Mr. McSwain announced federal charges against Jovaun Patterson, who was alleged to have shot a Philadelphia shop owner with a rifle during an attempted robbery on May 5, 2018.
The DA originally charged Mr. Patterson with multiple crimes, including attempted murder and aggravated assault, but then dropped the attempted murder charges and agreed to a lenient plea deal of 3½ to 10 years imprisonment. With federal charges, Mr. Patterson faces a statutory maximum of life imprisonment and a statutory minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment.
The DA’s pro-criminal polices has infuriated victims and their families, police officers and many others, including Maureen Faulkner, the brave and tenacious widow of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. She demanded that Larry Krasner recuse himself from appeals filed by her husband’s convicted murderer, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Maureen Faulkner accused the DA of having conflicts of interest in the case and “rolling over on appeals,” as well as telling lies and half-truths.
Philadelphians should be thankful for U.S. Attorney William McSwain, who is looking out for true justice in the city.
• Paul Davis covers crime, espionage and terrorism.