Hours After Mass Shooting, Philly DA Downplayed Crime Spike to Liberal Celebrities

Larry Krasner attended $1,000-a-head fundraiser with John Legend, Elizabeth Warren

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (D.) speaks to a reporter at of the election party of public defender Tiffany Caban moments before she claimed victory in the in the Queens District Attorney Democratic Primary election, June 25, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. / Getty Images
April 12, 2021

Hours after eight people were shot in broad daylight outside a Philadelphia train station, the city's top law enforcement official downplayed a historic violent crime surge during a $1,000-a-head reelection fundraiser with Hollywood and Democratic VIPs, according to audio obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

District attorney Larry Krasner did not mention the tragic event in his virtual address to liberal celebrity John Legend, Democratic Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, and wealthy liberal donors. Krasner did, however, paint critics of his progressive crime policies as ignorant, lamenting that they get their understanding of crime from "watching Law & Order on television" and hold irrational fears of "werewolves running up and down the street."

"Needless to say—screams, ranting and raving, 'There will be a crime wave; there will be werewolves running up and down the street; they're gonna grab you people out of your house and take them out of the back!'" Krasner said of the response to his progressive bail reforms. "Except no, that's not what happened."

The comments come as Philadelphia experiences a record surge in homicides, which Krasner minimized as purely pandemic-induced and unrelated to his policies. But homicide rates have increased every year since Krasner took office in 2018, jumping to a 30-year high in 2020. Philadelphia is now on pace to experience its deadliest year in history in 2021. Those stats put the city at the "low end of the terribleness going on" nationally, Krasner claimed during the fundraiser.

Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby lambasted Krasner for attending the February fundraiser "after eight people were shot and while people are being shot at a record pace under his watch," saying the decision "shows what he cares about." He added that Krasner "dismisses law enforcement" and has "zero cooperation" with the city's police commissioner.

"That's his M.O. He doesn't care about anybody but himself. He's a condescending person, he's arrogant," McNesby told the Free Beacon. "The only campaign promise that Krasner has kept is that he would lower the jail population. He's done an incredible job at that—unfortunately, at the expense of the community and the folks out there losing loved ones."

Krasner's office did not return a request for comment.

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Rafael Mangual rejected Krasner's assertion that Philadelphia's violent crime surge is merely due to the pandemic. He noted that some major cities, including Baltimore, saw a decrease in homicides in 2020 following deadly spikes in 2019, which he said "undermines the argument that the pandemic could be blamed."

"If what we're seeing in some of these cities is actually the continuation of a pre-existing trend, that undermines the idea that it was the pandemic that drove the spike everywhere," Mangual said. "I think that's probably true for Philadelphia, as well as for other cities."

Krasner defended his claim that Philadelphia's crime spike is on the "low end" of a nationwide surge by citing a National Commission on COVID and Criminal Justice report, which analyzed the 2019 to 2020 homicide rate increase in 34 American cities. The report placed Philadelphia in 23rd with a 27 percent increase. Many of the cities ranked ahead of Philadelphia, however, do not come close to matching the scope of Philadelphia's homicide problem. In Chula Vista, California, for example, homicides climbed from 4 in 2019 to 10 in 2020. And in Chandler, Arizona, homicides rose from 3 in 2019 to 7 in 2020. Philadelphia, meanwhile, saw 356 homicides in 2019 and 499 in 2020; 132 people have been murdered in the city thus far in 2021.

In addition to the ongoing crime wave, Krasner has reached a number of controversial plea deals with violent criminals throughout his tenure. In January 2018, his office offered gang member Hassan Elliott a negotiated plea deal after police arrested the 21-year-old on illegal firearms charges. Elliott went on to violate his parole agreement repeatedly, including for cocaine possession in January 2019. But Krasner's office did not jail Elliott for the violations, and the criminal allegedly murdered a man weeks later. When a SWAT team pursued Elliott in relation to the murder, he killed 23-year police veteran James O'Connor.

Krasner took office in 2018 after campaigning on his history of suing police officers 75 times as a civil rights attorney. Liberal megadonor George Soros spent nearly $1.7 million backing the progressive, who has also received thousands of dollars in contributions from Legend and his manager.

Krasner is now facing a fiery reelection battle as law enforcement groups work to oust him over what they call his "soft on crime" policies. McNesby's chapter endorsed Democratic challenger Carlos Vega, a former prosecutor, ahead of the May primary. While Krasner enjoys widespread support from national progressives, Philadelphia's Democratic City Committee declined to endorse him in March, a rare decision to steer clear of a party incumbent.

"[Krasner] needs to do what he needs to do to curb the violence, and he's not doing it," McNesby said. "That message is starting to resonate among the community."