When the national media has bothered to talk about the spike in shootings and homicides in many U.S. cities since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down courts and emptied jails earlier this year, they’ve largely tried to pin the blame on Donald Trump or at least downplay the fact that Democrats are in control of most of the cities where the crime spike has taken place. Mayors like Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot and Bill de Blasio in New York have helped with that narrative, inserting politics into the DOJ’s attempt to send more resources to cities to fight violent crime and downplaying their own failures to get tough on violent criminals.
That same dynamic has been playing out in Philadelphia for months now, though it hasn’t received a lot of national media attention. Police chief Danielle Outlaw announced back in March that officers wouldn’t be making arrests for many low-level crimes, but as shootings and homicides soared in the spring, Outlaw was forced to modify her orders in an attempt to rein in the violence.
The move didn’t seem to make much of a difference, in large part because while police can arrest offenders, it’s up to the local district attorney to actually prosecute them for their alleged crimes. With homicides up 32% in the city compared to 2019, U.S. Attorney William McSwain says Philly prosecutor Larry Krasner is failing to do his job, and on Monday the federal prosecutor delivered a scathing attack on Krasner’s policies, which McSwain says are enabling a “culture of lawlessness” in the city.
McSwain, who oversees the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, highlighted more than 10 cases he believes have been mishandled by Krasner’s office. He also attributed a spike in violence in Philadelphia to Krasner’s progressive criminal justice policies.
“Armed murderers cannot be permitted to walk the streets of Philadelphia in the name of criminal justice reform,” McSwain, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said at a press conference. “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.”
McSwain also announced that federal prosecutors will be taking over several cases that he believes have been mismanaged by Krasner’s office, including the case of 28-year old Khalif Tuggle, who was charged by police back in 2017 in a robbery and carjacking that left one person dead.
Krasner’s office agreed not to prosecute Tuggle for first- or second-degree murder in exchange for information on an accomplice, which McSwain said never materialized. Under Tuggle’s current sentence, he could be eligible for parole in about 10 years. If convicted on federal charges, he could face life imprisonment.
In another case, McSwain revealed federal charges against 53-year-old John Allen Kane, a convicted felon who was found to be in possession of a firearm during a January 2018 traffic stop. Kane was on probation for committing his second homicide in Philadelphia.
McSwain said Krasner’s office voluntarily dismissed the firearm charge “on a technicality,” allowing him to walk free.
Krasner is a far-Left District Attorney who has been criticized for years by McSwain and others for his light-on-crime approach. While Krasner’s done nothing to grow a culture of lawful gun ownership in the city, he’s also refused to prosecute many gun cases involving everything from simple possession to acts of wanton violence. McSwain says that leads to more mayhem on the streets, as offenders believe they can commit crimes without consequence.
“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.”
It would be one thing if Krasner came out and vocally objected to some of the gun control laws on the books in Philadelphia. He hasn’t done so. Instead, he’s attacked the city’s cash bail system and accused the criminal justice system of being “overly punitive” in general. McSwain says that attitude has led to a large number of “sweetheart plea deals to violent defendants” coming out of Krasner’s office, which in turn means “those defendants… quickly get back out on the street and kill.”
If violent crime was dropping across Philadelphia, Krasner’s approach might have more fans. With homicides soaring, however, it’s clear that a soft-on-crime strategy isn’t doing anything to keep residents safe. Hopefully Philly’s violent criminals understand that if they shoot someone, the U.S. Attorney’s office is going to take an interest, even if the local D.A. is more concerned about offering a plea bargain.