Soros-Backed DA Cut Plea Deals With Violent Criminals Represented by Campaign Donors

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner under fire for progressive policies amid violent crime spike

George Soros / Getty Images
March 17, 2021

Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner cut favorable plea deals with violent criminals represented by the progressive's campaign donors, city financial records show.

Krasner took office in January 2018 after mounting an unconventional campaign that centered on his history of suing police officers as a civil rights attorney. Just five months later, he reached a plea agreement with two career criminals who murdered a Philadelphia cop, allowing them to avoid the death penalty. Defense attorneys Michael Coard and Daniel Stevenson oversaw the deal after donating a combined $2,700 to Krasner's 2017 campaign. Coard—who has called police departments "modern versions of colonial-era slave patrols"—also served on Krasner's transition team and vocally supported the progressive in 2017. 

Months later, Krasner reached another controversial plea deal with a career criminal who shot a Philadelphia deli owner with an AK-47 during an armed robbery. Krasner campaign donor Philip Steinberg represented the shooter, who received as little as three-and-a-half years in prison for aggravated assault, a step below the attempted murder charge the DA's office initially pursued. Krasner's office also failed to inform the victim of the shooter's plea hearing, a violation of state law.

Krasner is now facing a contentious reelection battle as local law enforcement groups argue that his "soft on crime" policies have led to a spike in violence. Twenty-twenty marked Philadelphia's most violent year in three decades, with nearly 500 killed and more than 2,200 shot. The city experienced a rise in killings under Krasner even before destructive riots swept the nation in the wake of George Floyd's death. Philadelphia saw 353 and 356 homicides in 2018 and 2019, respectively—more than any year since 2007.

"It's been a complete train wreck since [Krasner] has been in office. His failed social experiment has driven crime up, driven murders up," Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby told the Washington Free Beacon. "On the street, the criminals know that there are no repercussions. They call him 'Let 'Em Out Larry'—it's a joke."

Krasner's campaign did not return a request for comment. The progressive's 2018 plea deal with cop killers Carlton Hipps and Ramone Williams came after the pair fatally shot Sgt. Robert Wilson III while robbing a local GameStop. Wilson was at the store to buy a gift for his son and engaged the shooters, moving bystanders away while taking fire in an exchange that was caught on video. 

Coard, who represented Williams, called the plea agreement a "no brainer." He told the Philadelphia Tribune that Hipps and Williams would "no doubt" get the death penalty without the deal given that they were "on videotape killing a cop." Wilson's family questioned Krasner's objectivity in the case given Coard's role on the progressive's transition team, but both Coard's and Stevenson's campaign contributions went unnoticed. Coard gave Krasner's campaign $2,500 in the 2017 cycle, while Stevenson gave $200. The pair has combined to give Krasner an additional $1,350 since September 2019. 

Coard could not be reached for comment. The Defender Association of Philadelphia, where Stevenson serves as homicide department head, did not return a request for comment. Krasner claimed at the time that he had not spoken to Coard about the case.

Krasner initially defended the plea deal stemming from the deli robbery—which saw Jovaun Patterson shoot owner Mike Poeng in the groin—as "wholly appropriate." Steinberg, who did not return a request for comment, defended Patterson after giving $500 to Krasner in June 2017. His law partner also contributed $300 to the progressive's campaign at the time, according to state filings.

Poeng was in a coma for weeks after the shooting and is now unable to walk on his own, forcing him to give up his store. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2018 that Krasner's plea deal was "almost like ... promoting a criminal to have an AK-47." After the victim criticized the agreement, Krasner blamed the offer on an assistant district attorney and filed a motion asking a pleas court judge to reconsider Patterson's sentence. Former U.S. attorney William McSwain responded by filing federal charges against Patterson, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. 

In addition to support from local defense attorneys, Krasner in 2017 benefited from nearly $1.7 million in outside spending from George Soros. The liberal megadonor has spent millions backing progressives in district attorney races across the country.