Some people believe that New York’s progressive movement, currently personified by Queens district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán, is the wave of the future. But another wave is rolling in the opposite direction.
Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner, perhaps the country’s best-known progressive DA, whom Cabán says she emulates, has had his ears pinned back by the Pennsylvania State Legislature.
New legislation authorizes the state’s attorney general to prosecute firearm cases that Krasner has dropped, allowing Philadelphia police to work directly with the attorney general and cut out Krasner.
The bill, signed into law, applies only to Krasner’s office, not to any other DA’s office in Pennsylvania. It remains in effect for two years, expiring just after Krasner’s first term is completed.
Krasner, who endorsed Cabán, was elected in 2017 as part of a movement to revolutionize DA offices nationwide. He promised to end mass incarceration, review convictions, stop cash bail in many cases, and treat drug addiction as an illness and not a crime.
Cabán shares his philosophy. “I have spent my career working for people who did not have the resources to defend themselves against the brutal system of mass incarceration,” she says on her campaign website.
Cabán is in a neck-and-neck race with Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president, who is supported by the Queens’ political establishment, despite having no prosecutorial experience. A manual recount is underway, and it could be weeks or months before a winner is declared.
Krasner’s year and a half as DA has been controversial. It includes his firing 30 prosecutors, a rise in the city homicide rate, and fury from local law enforcement officials and victim advocates.
Earlier this year, William M. McSwain, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, unveiled federal charges in a case in which Krasner accepted what many view as a lenient plea deal for a man who shot a shopkeeper with an AK-47 assault rifle.
“It’s not a coincidence that Philadelphia saw a double-digit increase in homicides in 2018,” McSwain said. “The policies of the district attorney’s office are undoubtedly playing a large role in this tragedy and nobody should be surprised by it.”
Krasner’s spokeswoman, Jane Roh, said in a statement that Krasner “has serious concerns about . . . the potential precedent [the legislation] sets, and what it signifies for the justice movement at large.”