Philadelphia DA is making SERIOUS Changes, without Apology

Krasner entered office with a BANG! He cleaned house, putting Deputy District Attorneys hired under the disgraceful tenure of Seth Williams out of work. The Judges in Philadelphia objected to some extent, citing the delay of murder trials.

When Larry Krasner was a private attorney, his second favorite thing to do other than defending people accused of crimes, was to sue the police.

And the police in Philadelphia have their problems. It is a culture infused with a history of racial tension and violence. Mistrust exists on both sides, the police force and the minorities that live in West and North Philadelphia.

Richard Long, who is president of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association, and who continuously lobbies for tougher and longer sentences, and for longer paroles and probations can’t help but to disagree, but he does it in a subtle way – with the preface that the People of Philadelphia elected Krasner.

Krasner is unapologetic and bold about the changes he is making. He came into office with a plan and a promise and nothing is getting in his way:

“Pennsylvania’s and Philadelphia’s over-incarceration have bankrupted investment in policing, public education, medical treatment of addiction, job training, and economic development — which prevent crime more effectively than money invested in corrections,” Krasner wrote in a memo this month to prosecutors that was obtained by the Inquirer and Daily News. “Over-incarceration also tears the fabric of defendants’ familial and work relationships that tend to rehabilitate defendants who are open to rehabilitation and thereby prevent crime.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer : CITATION

These are the sort of words Philadelphia always hoped to hear from Seth Williams but never did. The now jailed Seth Williams, former DA, had taken some superficial strides to appease the call for criminal justice reform in Philadelphia. He started a “conviction integrity unit”, but little was ever done with it, and the committee made very few changes and served mostly as a pillar on William’s campaign platform. An empty gesture from a greedy man who thought that is what Philadelphia expected and wanted to hear from him. “I have a conviction integrity unit to adjust the racist courts” he touted on the campaign trail, but look at what the committee actually did? Zilch. But that wasn’t the point. It was a bullet point on Williams resume, it was another arguing point for the debate stand. It was all gilded and phoney, by a man who rode on a public image of himself without embodying that goodness that was automatically expected of him.

Philadelphia assumed they got it right under Williams. Hire a black prosecutor, who was local and from the hood and certainly he could understand the twisted and racist Philadelphia Criminal Justice System. Surely he could implement smart and compassionate changes. Seth Williams got elected under that guise, but as the years unfolded, the reality became clear. The only person Seth Williams really cared about was Seth Williams. The criminal justice reform was merely part of a campaign platform, something to impress the latte drinking democrats and/or minorities of Philadelphia who consistently make up the larger majority of the voting classes.

Now Krasner has rolled around. A seasoned old attorney used to “taking on the man” has now become “the man.” But the power seems to have changed his private criminal/civil lawyer mentality very little.

Krasner might now be “the man” but the criminal defense lawyer remains, he saw first hand what was wrong with the system, and now he is breaking down the system. Was it irresponsible to clean out half of the assistant district attorneys when he took office? Yes and no. Yes because it delayed cases, no because he knew the cases he delayed would be prosecuted the correct way, by letter of the book, and fairly by the attorney’s he hand selected.

Times are changing in Philadelphia.

Perhaps what best embodies the public sentiment on the changing times is the case of Meek Mills. Meek Mills was arrested while he was under the age of 18 and had a ridiculously long “Probationary” period handed down to him. I have to say I have never been on probation, but I have heard that the rules and requirements under Philadelphia Departments of Parole and Probation are set up so even that someone like me, a white color individual with no criminal history might have problems. These departments are set up for failure.

Meek Mill is famous, he is an internationally known award winning rap artist. A multi millionaire with a platinum album. He is A-List in the rap world. With this long of a probation, and with a history of drug abuse and drug treatment, Meek Mills was set up for failure.

But there would not be this much attention paid to the average black man who gets sentenced in Philadelphia with an almost a decade long probation. The discussion of probation lengths and sentencing of minors might not have even arose without Meek Mill and his A-List self bringing it to light.

Krasner, a hardened from the war bunkers seasoned criminal defense attorney, has been fighting the system throughout his career and is well aware of the injustices that minorities, or even just regular criminal defendants face in the ruthless Philadelphia criminal courts.

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I read the commentary under the Meek Mill’s articles after he violated probation and was returned to jail. They are racist on both sides of the coin. Many of the “white folks” in Philadelphia believe he got what he deserved. He did the drugs and violated his probation, he should do the time. Forget that he is an addict and also went to rehab. Forget that he is changing the scene of rap music in America on levels they will never quite understand as they only listen to Lynnard Skinnard or Danny & the Juniors from their south philadelphia basements. Forget his probation sentence for a non violent crime he committed as a youth in 2008 should not have been as long as it was after he served his time. Forget the injustices surrounding this case, “he relapsed and did the drugs, stop his crying and shut up and do your time.” It’s callous.

The comments are “Quit crying and do your time,” or “Mills should stop whining, because he broke the law” etc. Etc. There is little support for Mills from the white social media in Philadelphia.  There is little actual realization that Meek Mill will be sitting in jail for the next five years, and tax payers will be paying for it, all because he had a violation of probation for a non violent drug related crime in the first place. What a waste of prison space? He was doing more outside of jail than he ever did for it sitting in jail. All I can hope, is that all that pain in solitary confinement (his status automatically for being famous) and he’ll come out and produce some AMAZING soul-wrenching album.

The Meek Mill judge was something else. She clung to this case immediately. A black woman from West Philadelphia and a Howard and Temple Law school graduate, you would expect better. Genece Brinkley embodies all that is wrong with our justice system. She was well aware of the national spotlight the case of Meek Mills brought her, how her name and her legacy would be attached to every article after every hearing. She was inappropriately close to the case. She showed up personally at the foodbank to ensure she was doing his community service….. Imagine how many Judges actually take the time to show up at your community service and watch you work at a homeless shelter. She weighed in on who his “agent” should be. She advised him “I can make you as rich as Dr. Dre.” She requested shout outs to him during his songs behind her chamber doors, and when he asked if she was serious? She said yes. And when he declined, she said – ominously – “have it your way.”

She basked in the headlines when she sent him back to jail, and enjoyed the attention. It was unjudicial, fame seeking and despicable. She had extra deputies at the hearings and allowed reporters in, an unprecedented move in most philly courts. They couldn’t photograph, but they could fill up the room. She took pleasure in the attention, and the positive news about herself. She seldom made the papers, but everytime Mill came to court, she was front page. There was her name, once a nameless black girl from an impoverished neighborhood in Philadelphia, now she was FAMOUS. Never mind her Howard College education, nevermind the justice, Now Genece Brinkley could advise a famous man on what agent to hire, on where to live, on what should be in his next album… And she got the front page and reporters chasing after her each and every time she did. Never mind the guys life.

When Mills came in for his last hearing, she was sure to announce to the press the hearing. She was sure to add as many deputies as the Philadelphia Court Administrator would allow her. Today she wasn’t being ignored sentencing small time marijuanna offenders or petty traffic court violators with fines. Today the news was lined up.

Mill and his Attorney knew what was happening the minute they walked into Brinkley’s Court. Brinkley asked that the back door to the court (where they take the inmate) be flown open and on display. She wore extra make up that day, smiling broadly at reporters as she made her decision. Likely going back to her office and reading the twitter feeds and blogs. Genece Brinkley, the Howard graduate and poor black girl from the hood, now she was famous. No reporters ever bothered with her other hearings, she had as many hearings and as frequently as she could in this case. Brinkley, who no one really cared or ever heard about, was now a household name. She might even get a “shout out” in a Mill song, as she had requested.

The white folks in South Philly agreed with her, particularly after all the historical racist tension. So did the police force.

Imagine their jaws dropping when Krasner came out and said this:

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday that it would not oppose Meek Mill’s release from prison on bail because it has questions about whether the rapper’s conviction from a decade ago would withstand his most recent appeal efforts.

In a motion filed in Common Pleas Court, prosecutors said, “There is a strong showing of likelihood of [Mill’s] conviction being reversed,” based on allegations that the 2008 conviction was secured thanks to false testimony by arresting officer Reginald V. Graham. Prosecutors also cited the fact that Graham — the sole government witness at Mill’s trial — was included on a recently disclosed list of police whom the District Attorney’s Office had deemed too untrustworthy to testify.

“In the event [Mill’s] conviction is reversed … the risk of an unjust or disproportionate sentence having been served exists,” said the motion, filed in response to an appeal by Mill’s attorneys. “That risk increases as long as [Mill] remains in custody.”  –Philadelphia Inquirer : CITATION

There was a white guy not endorsing revocation of probation for a drug addict in recovery due to non violent offenses or technicalities. What the shocked Philadelphia community did not offer was any self conscience redress of the problems at stake. The discussion still myopically centered around the fate of one famous black man. There was no self awareness or contemplation of the thousands of other minorities caught up within the criminal justice system in Philadelphia, who faced similar toils and struggles (but without the press). Still it was a beginning, the white population of South and Center Philadelphia shut their mouths for a moment, and softened their opinions on Meek Mill.

To Krasner, I feel, It’s just the beginning of a very very important discussion. No one expected his exact reaction as the “top law enforcement officer” of Philadelphia, but that is the crazy and brilliant thing about Krasner. He’s not about to participate in the drudgery of a antagonistic racial dialogue, it isn’t about race to him. It’s about making changes, which he is doing without apology. And people in Philly are coming around to respect that.

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