Tuesday, January 12, 2021

D.A. Won't Divulge How Much Was Paid To Accused Serial Rapist

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

For nine weeks in September 2018, District Attorney Larry Krasner hired former Boston prosecutor Adam Foss to train Krasner's young prosecutors on how to reform the criminal justice system here in Philadelphia.

Foss, who gained rock star status after a TED talk that garnered nearly three million views, is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the district attorney's office in Boston where he used to work, after several women publicly accused Foss of being a serial predator and rapist who was knowingly spreading STDs.

In Boston, the investigation of Foss is being handled by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office, a private law firm, and the Boston police, after a scandal erupted that was big news in the Boston Globe, boston.com, and the local NPR affiliate in Boston. But back in Philadelphia, Big Trial is the only media outlet to pursue the local angle in the Adam Foss sex scandal.

In Philadelphia, however, District Attorney Krasner has refused to say how much Foss, who commanded up to $20,000 for a single live speaking engagement, was paid to train Krasner's staff. Krasner has also refused to say whether Foss victimized any of Krasner's impressionable young prosecutors.

The scandal in Boston began when Raegan Sealy, a writer and singer, who said she met Foss at a conference, wrote a long blog post entitled, "The Wolf and the Network." In her tell-all, Sealy claimed that she was raped in 2017 by Foss, who posed as a "progressive, liberal, acclaimed social justice advocate" but was in reality a predator. 

Foss has publicly acknowledged that his behavior has "caused many people anguish, but I deny any allegations of nonconsensual sexual relations," he wrote in a statement to NPR in Boston. Other women subsequently came forward to publicly accuse him.

In Philadelphia, former defense lawyer Krasner came into office in 2018 portraying himself as a reformer. He publicly pledged to make the criminal justice system in Philadelphia "more accessible and transparent" to the public than ever before, so he could be held accountable.

But my experience with Krasner has been the exact opposite of transparent. With Big Trial, Krasner has been nothing but a stonewaller.

For the past 17 months, both Krasner and Jane Roh, his alleged spokesperson, have refused to answer any of my questions posed for more than 75 stories that I wrote documenting the corruption in Krasner's office and deadly consequences of the D.A.'s so-called progressive policies. 

[For the curious, here's a full list of more than 30 Big Trial scoops published last year about D.A. Krasner and his D.A.'s office. Caution -- it's not for the faint-hearted.]

After Krasner stonewalled my questions for a Nov. 25th story about Foss, I filed a written request on Dec. 3rd under the state's Right-To-Know law to force Krasner to divulge how much Foss, and his nonprofit, Prosecutor Impact, were paid to train assistant district attorneys in Philadelphia.

The response of Krasner's office: on Dec. 10th, they asked for a 30-day delay. And then on Friday Jan. 8th, Krasner's office issued their "final response" to my open records request:

"Your request is denied."

Here's the reason why: 

"The DAO was unable to locate records responsive to your requests because Mr. Foss and Prosecutor Impact were not compensated using DAO funds," said the letter signed by Assistant District Attorney Zehava Robbins and Simran Dhillon, the D.A.'s Open Records Officer.

"Any expenses were also covered by outside funding," Robbins and Dhillon wrote. "It is not a denial of access under the RTKL if the requested records do not exist in the agency’s possession, custody, or control. See, e.g., Moore v. Office of Open Records, 992 A.2d 907, 909 (Pa. Commw. 2010) (explaining that “[a]gency cannot grant access to a record that does not exist”). 

So Krasner, who was elected with $1.7 million of billionaire George Soros's money, is claiming that because Foss was paid with "outside funding," he doesn't have to divulge how much Foss was paid.

So much for transparency.

But Krasner has a legal problem with the state's Right-To-Know Law, specifically, Section 506(d). which says this about "agency possession:"

"A public record that is not in the possession of an agency but is in the possession of a party with whom the agency has contracted to perform a governmental function on behalf of the agency, and which directly relates to the governmental function and is not exempt under this act, shall be considered a public record of the agency for purposes of this act."

Oh my, Mr. Krasner. Wouldn't you say that training young prosecutors constitutes a "governmental function" on behalf of the D.A.'s office?

That's why today I filed an appeal of Krasner's denial with the state's Office of Open Records, with the assistance of Paula Knudsen Burke. She's the Local Legal Initiative Attorney in Pennsylvania for the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press.

It was Burke's opinion that Krasner should divulge how much Foss was paid, regardless of whether he was paid with funds from the D.A.'s office.

"Requesters should be able to find out information about the work that an outside company does for a government agency when there is a contract with the company to carry out a government function," Burke wrote. "Section 506(d) of the Right to Know Law specifically outlines when requesters can obtain records in the possession of private companies that perform core work on behalf of the government."

"In this instance, a contractor was providing training to public officials on the performance of their public function," Burke wrote. "City officials would typically provide or pay for public officials’ training; outsourcing doesn’t eliminate the public’s right to know how much money was spent and what kind of services were provided."

Another critic of Krasner's stonewalling was Carlos Vega, a former homicide prosecutor who is running against Krasner for the Democratic nomination for D.A. in the May 18th primary.

"Larry Krasner ran on a platform of transparency and having an open dialogue with the public," Vega said. "And this is an issue where the public should know where the funds came from. I cannot comprehend why he [Krasner] wants to keep it a secret."

Vega said that in addition to transparency, there's a second issue here with the people Krasner hires. 

"Mr. Krasner has not vetted people who were entrusted with our safety and protection," Vega said. Then, he recited a list of Krasner's questionable hires that includes a former top aide who pleaded guilty to stealing $500,000 from her own nonprofit; a senior advisor who's a disbarred lawyer; a top aide who was arrested after abandoning her own child in a locked car; and a gun violence counselor who shot and killed a male prostitute that he had a rendezvous with during work hours.

"A the very least, Mr. Krasner's exercised very poor judgment," Vega said. "I'm just terrified to think of what else is going on in that office."

Besides questionable hires, Krasner's office has a bad track record with the Right-To-Know Law.  

On June 19, 2019, William J. Heeney, then a candidate for City Council, filed a right-to-know request seeking the "number of cases declined by the District Attorney Charging Unit from January 2018 to present, and documented reasons for the declination."

On July 29, 2019, after the D.A.'s office requested a 30-day extension, Benjamin Jackal, an assistant district attorney, wrote to Heeney, saying, "Your request is denied" because "The DAO does not have possession, custody or control of records responsive to your request."

After I posted a story about Heeney's lawsuit on the blog, a city official in the know wrote to say that the D.A.'s office was lying:

"There is a weekly report generated to a select number of personnel in the Police Department and the District Attorney's Office via email documenting every declination (refusal by the District Attorney to prosecute a case) and the reason for the declination."

"This report has been generated and documented for several years," the city official wrote. "Both the police department and the District Attorney's Office have the number of declined cases at their fingertips and can generate the list with the push of a key on their keyboard."

The state's Office of Open Records ordered the district attorney to produce the records.The D.A. refused, and changed his story, claiming the records were immune from disclosure because they're privileged. Heeley subsequently filed a lawsuit against Krasner's office.

But some of the records that Krasner originally claimed didn't exist did eventually see the light of day. Last March, Big Trial posted a story that documented how in 2018, the first year Krasner was in office, the D.A. declined to prosecute 2,562 cases

And now today, with the battle over trying to find out how much Adam Foss was paid to train Krasner's young prosecutors, D.A. Krasner is at it again. Once again, he's stonewalling the Right-To-Know Law, to keep the public from knowing what really goes on in his office. 

And when I asked Krasner today for a response to what Ms. Burke and Mr. Vega had to say about him, the D.A., as is typical, continued to stonewall. 

6 comments

  1. DA Krasner is following the Rendell Playbook.

    Politicians in Power may Commit Criminal Acts and following Laws are for the 'Little People."

    Rendell made his Career perfecting the Art of Plausible Deniability, and he has spread that Gospel through the Process of Political Corruption for Decades.

    Krasner is only the Latest Flavor on the Democrat Menu.

    It may come in a White Package, but Chocolate is Back, Bigger than Ever. I

    If you Object, they will cancel you and label U a RACIST.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That office is a Joke! Krasner,Listenbee and all the rest of the losers on the 18th Floor. They only care about themselves and refuse to answer the tough questions. Bunch of Frauds!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Ralph, again. Thanks for doing the work that the Philadelphia Inquirer, our own local propaganda, yellow-journalism rag could and SHOULD be doing. The "Enquirer" ain't got the credibility of a Smurf cartoon. It's merely the "Metro" with a sports section. And even the sports are a joke. The sports writers are a bunch of pussies walking around like Woodward and Bernstein, injecting politics and cheap-shots to Donald Trump into every story. They just got Petersen fired and now they're blaming it on Wentz. This Inquirer is merely a poor, very poor, parody of what was once a great publication. Thanks again, Ralph, for all you've done. Seems to me, you're our only, i repeat, only source for the truth. Everything you issue on this site is wonderful, and very greatly appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Inquirer has a troubling history, especially under Walter Annenberg. Read The Slate article "Citizen Annenberg" . It's on line.

      Delete
  4. Thanks, Stude. They should really close the Inquirer, it's a menace to the public health.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I guess an elected official acknowledging that someone accused of sexual misconduct was in contact with their staff and that the matter will be investigated properly is too much to ask for.

    ReplyDelete

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