Friday, January 21, 2022

State Investigating Krasner's Failure To Prosecute Gun Crimes

By Ralph Cipriano

The Judiciary Committee of the state House of Representatives,  now considering a proposal to impeach Philly D.A. Larry Krasner, has already commissioned a comprehensive multi-year audit aimed at exposing Krasner's horrendous record of prosecuting gun crimes.

"The families that live in, work in, or visit, the City of Philadelphia shouldn’t have to live in constant fear of gun violence," state Rep Todd Stephens said on June 8, 2021 when the Montgomery County Republican introduced House Resolution 111. 

The bill, which called for authorizing an in-depth six-year study of all gun prosecutions in Pennsylvania from 2015 to 2020, was passed by the state House on Nov. 17th, by a 133 to 67 margin. Although the bill calls for a state-wide study of gun prosecutions, the language of the bill, as well as the rhetoric of its sponsor, clearly targets Krasner's D.A.'s office.

According to the House Resolution 111, the study will be done by the PA Commission on Sentencing, which Rep. Stephens described as a "data-driven, evidence-based, bipartisan, legislative agency" seasoned at studying "criminal cases involving firearms."

"The Commission will rely on arrests, guilty pleas, convictions, sentences and other data to study the manner in which firearms cases have been investigated, prosecuted and adjudicated in the City of Philadelphia and other counties to help inform the General Assembly of any reforms necessary to better protect the people of this Commonwealth," Stephens said.

House Resolution 111 calls for the Commission on Sentencing to deliver their report to the House's Judiciary Committee on June 30th. The bill gives the Judiciary Committee, composed of 15 Republicans and 9 Democrats, the authority to "conduct hearings to elicit testimony, documents and other evidence related to the findings of the report."

Such a study would expose what Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has described as Krasner's "revolving door" for repeat gun offenders. We're talking about: [A] the gun cases that were either dismissed by judges or withdrawn by the D.A.'s office; [B] the lenient sentences routinely doled out by the D.A.'s office under Krasner; and [C] the recidivism rate for gun crimes, something the D.A.'s office currently does not track, for good reason.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Cop's Widow Seeks To Disqualify D.A. Krasner In Mumia Appeal

By Ralph Cipriano

Lawyers for the widow of slain Police Officer Danny Faulkner filed a petition in court today seeking to disqualify District Attorney Larry Krasner from serving as prosecutor in the most recent appeal filed on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Faulkner's convicted killer.

On Dec. 23rd, 40 years after Faulkner was murdered, lawyers for Abu-Jamal filed the latest appeal in the long-running case, seeking for the sixth time to get Abu-Jamal out of jail.

The basis for the most recent appeal was alleged new evidence supposedly discovered by Krasner himself in December 2018 in a storage room, while he was wandering around the D.A.'s office. 

However, a subsequent court battle over that alleged newly discovered evidence, six boxes of files that were stored in the D.A.'s office for decades, revealed that there was nothing new there.

Instead, the bottom line of the prior litigation was that Krasner, our criminal-loving D.A., had gone off half-cocked in his desire to get Mumia the celebrity cop killer out of jail. 

In an email today to supporters of Faulkner's widow, Maureen, George Bochetto, the lawyer who's representing her, said that the latest Mumia appeal is "replete with lies, fabricated accusations of prosecutorial misconduct, and worn-out allegations of racism."

"The problem is, Philadelphia D A. Larry Krasner wants to spring Abu-Jamal from jail --- and to claim such freedom as his crown-jewel of 'criminal justice reform,' ” Bochetto wrote.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

State Senate Prez: Impeach Larry Krasner!

By Ralph Cipriano

The president of the Pennsylvania state Senate today called on leaders in the state House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner by launching an investigation of the "reform" D.A. who just last November, got reelected by a landslide to a second term. 

In a letter to a trio of Republican  leaders in the state House,  state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, another Republican from Bellefonte, PA, said that in order to stem the tide of violence in Philadelphia, it was necessary to impeach Krasner and remove him from office.

What a great idea! It would take a simple majority vote of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to go forward with articles of impeachment against Krasner. The next step would be for the state Senate, also controlled by the GOP, to hold a trial of Krasner, where witnesses would be called to testify.

It would take a two-thirds vote in the state Senate to remove Krasner from office.

The last time the state Senate impeached an elected official was in 1994, when the late State Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen, who died in 2014, was removed from office and stripped of his pension. Prior to his impeachment, the Pittsburgh Democrat was removed from the bench because of a conviction for conspiring to order mood-altering drugs under the names of his employees, in order to hide a history of mental illness. 

In his letter today sent to House Speaker Bryan Cutler, Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff and Judiciary Committee Chair Rob Kauffman, state Senator Corman stated that since 2015, just 21 percent of shootings in Philadelphia have led to criminal charges. Of that small percentage, Corman said, less than one-tenth of those cases have resulted in a conviction.

“The recent spike in violent crime is a direct result of DA Krasner’s failed policies and his refusal to perform the duties of his office to hold criminals accountable for the crimes that they commit,” Corman said in the letter. 

Why I Won't Be Part Of The Inquirer's 'More Perfect Union' Project

By Ralph Cipriano

In case you haven't heard, The Philadelphia Inquirer is now engaged in a year-long crusade to expose systemic racism at every historic institution in town, starting with the Inquirer itself. 

The project dubbed "A More Perfect Union" is being financed by a $1.3 million grant from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. 

As part of the project to write about "issues of race" in Philadelphia, Wesley Lowery, a distinguished Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, CBS correspondent and author, emailed me Sunday and politely asked if, as a former Inky staffer and current Inky critic, if I'd be interested in being interviewed about the newspaper. 

I said thanks but no thanks. 

"I just don’t think indicting the Inquirer for decades-old racism is going to accomplish anything positive," I wrote back. "How does this help today’s residents?"

I then suggested that if Black Lives really mattered, instead of digging up 18th century graveyards, the Inquirer could put its resources to far better use by launching a full-fledged investigation of District Attorney Larry Krasner, instead of constantly covering for him. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Penn Loses Round One In 'Pillow Talk' Conspiracy Case

By Ralph Cipriano

A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge on Thursday denied the University of Pennsylvania's request to have Mackenzie Fierceton's lawsuit against the university transferred to Commerce Court.

If the judge had granted the university's request, the Fierceton case would have been transferred to a court where judges routinely and quietly settle business disputes out of the public eye, and often, without a jury trial. 

But now Penn is stuck where it doesn't want to be, in Common Pleas Court. That's where Fierceton's lawyer is demanding a major jury trial, when the university's brutal inquisition of an already physically abused student will be on prime display as the overriding issue in the case.

It doesn't look pretty for Penn. 

And if that wasn't bad enough, on Friday, the Chronicle of Higher Education, which just did a major takeout on the Fierceton case, headlined "The Dredging," published a lengthy, five-page letter to the editor from a couple of Penn's own professors who served as Fierceton's academic advisors.

In the letter, the two Penn professors blasted Penn's "shameful" treatment of the grad student "who has had, all agree, a deeply traumatic life so far."

In short, it was a bad week for Penn.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

New Year's Murder Rate Up 31%; Philly On Pace For 635 Homicides

By Ralph Cipriano

Philadelphia, which just set an all-time record last year with 562 murders, is already on a pace in the New Year to beat that record, with well over 600 murders.

As of last night, the city had already racked up 17 murders over the first 10 days of the New Year. That's a 31% increase over the 13 murders that the city recorded over the first 10 days of last year.

If the killing spree continues at this rate, the city would set a new all-time record this year with 635 murders.

It's something that the city's weak, soft-on-crime leadership of Mayor Kenney, Police Commissioner Outlaw & D.A. Larry Krasner can continue to be proud of. 

Yesterday, during a period of approximately 90 minutes, police responded to reports of a "person with a gun" at three different locations and found four bullet-ridden bodies, all of whom by the end of the night, were pronounced dead.

What did the victims all have in common? All had criminal records and were released from prison in either 2018 or 2019. And what did all of the killers have in common? As of today, they're still at large.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

In 'Pillow Talk' Conspiracy, Penn's Stonewall Cracks

Illustration: The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Ralph Cipriano

On Dec. 21st, Big Trial broke a story about an explosive lawsuit charging that top officials at the University of Pennsylvania had allegedly conspired with journalists at The Philadelphia Inquirer to smear a Penn grad student who had just won a prestigious Rhodes scholarship.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of grad student Mackenzie Fierceton claims that Penn officials targeted her for retaliation after she became a key witness in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the university.

As part of the alleged conspiracy, the lawsuit claims, Penn officials conducted a "sham" investigation that forced the student to voluntarily give up her Rhodes scholarship, after Penn officials threatened to rescind the student's undergraduate degree and withhold her master's degree. On top of that, the lawsuit claims that Penn officials had threatened to send the student to jail for allegedly fraudulently representing herself in her application to become a Rhodes scholar.

In more than two weeks since that story was published, the public response of Penn and the Inquirer to the lawsuit has been crickets. None of the Penn officials nor the Inquirer journalists targeted in the lawsuit have responded to Big Trial's requests for comment. Neither has Inquirer CEO and Publisher Lisa Hughes. 

But stonewalling is harder to pull off in court. So last week Penn broke its official silence by filing an 80-page answer to the complaint that was mostly filed with denials. In its brief, Penn denied that it retaliated against Fierceton, or colluded with "co-conspirators" at the Inquirer to smear her.

Instead, Penn claimed that an internal investigation by the university, as well as the Rhodes Trust, had concluded that "Fierceton had not been truthful" about her background, and that's why the university had put her degrees on ice.

On Friday, the high-brow Chronicle of Higher Education weighed in on the fray with a long story about Penn's brutal inquisition of Fierceton entitled, "The Dredging." It's a story that will only serve to further fuel the battle that will be waged over Fierceton in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

Meanwhile, the Inquirer hasn't told its readers about the lawsuit that targets their top editor and a recently departed Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. How's that for transparency? Maybe if the Inquirer is brought into the lawsuit as a defendant, they'll finally have to say something. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Child Playing With Cigarette Lighter May Have Started Deadly Fairmount Fire That Killed A Dozen, Including Eight Children

By Ralph Cipriano

According to police reports, a five-year-old child has repeatedly confessed that he was playing with his mother's cigarette lighter when he set a Christmas tree on fire, igniting the Fairmount rowhouse fire that killed a dozen victims, including eight children.

The child was transported by medics to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he was reported to have no apparent injuries. On the way to the hospital the child told  a Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic "several times" that he had accidentally set the Christmas tree on fire.

Homicide detectives who interviewed the child briefly at CHOP, said the child told them he was playing with his "mother's orange cigarette lighter" when the Christmas tree went up in flames. When the detectives interviewed the child, he was accompanied by hospital staffers from CHOP, who said the child told them the same story.

The three-story brick rowhouse at 869 N. 23rd Street is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. According to page 15 of PHA's Housing Quality Standards Inspection Resource Guide, the house should have been equipped with "At least one battery-operated or hard-wired smoke detector [that] must be present and working on each level of the unit, including the basement." 

But none of at least four smoke detectors, which were supposed to be inspected annually by PHA, were working when the fire struck. In addition, the house, which included only two apartments, was crammed with 26 residents.

Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy told Fox 29 that 18 people were staying in the upstairs apartment on the second and third floors, and eight more staying in the downstairs apartment, which included the first floor and part of the second floor.

Only 14 of the 26 made it out to safety.