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DA-elect Krasner announces transition team to help bring promises to reality

Larry Krasner is under national scrutiny as he prepares to lead criminal prosecution with only the experience of a defense attorney.
Philly DA-elect Larry Krasner listens to a Belmont resident during a campaign visit in July. (Courtesy of Krasner for DA)

Larry Krasner is getting ready for action. The Philadelphia DA-elect, catapulted to office by a landslide of enthusiasm and a record-setting vote, will take office on Jan. 2, 2018.

On Friday, Krasner’s team will announce the members of its transition team, effectively a “superbrain” tackling how to start making his promised reforms become reality.

It's a group that unexpectedly asks the community leaders and activists who got Krasner elected to sit down with people who have spent years working within law enforcement.

“I know that there are people here who will challenge me and the movement behind this campaign,” Krasner said. “I will not necessarily agree with them on everything, but that was kind of the point — we really want a diversity of perspectives.”

Krasner has no prosecutorial experience, but he says he has found common ground on policy with his transition team members experienced in the realities of law enforcement, like former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson.

“I’m probably not going to agree with Justice Castille on everything, but his insight on mandatory sentencing and his feelings around the failure of traditional drug enforcement are pretty similar to mine, so I value his perspective, even if we don't feel the same way about everything," Krasner said. "Commissioner Johnson has been pretty outspoken about the reality that law enforcement fails without grassroots support, without community involvement, and it fails when the relationship between police and the communities they protect is broken, so I value his input."

Krasner said he is not commenting yet on what exact policies his office will have in place on day one. He asserted that the Philly DA's office could become "a model for the nation."

He said he's closely studying the best practices around the nation for conviction integrity/post-conviction relief, reviewing old convictions on a variety of complaints. He talked about replacing arguments over how high a defendant's cash bail should be with "bilateral recommendations" based on "risk assessment."

"We don't want to have people locked up just because they're broke, which is exactly what happens," he said. "But we will not get support from this legislature. We're never going to get a law passed like they did in D.C. saying judges can never use cash as an aspect of bail, it doesn't matter that it was extremely successful in D.C. This legislature — you've got a lot of Trump lawn signs."

Krasner says he expects his policies, among the most radically to the left of any DA in the nation, to succeed in court and, over time, to earn the support of everyone from judges to bail commissioners. But experienced prosecutors and other members of law enforcement have said he is too "radical" to be DA.

"I would probably describe what has been happening in the last 30 years as radical," Krasner said of the period since the late '80s, when drug sentences have multiplied and mass incarceration has boomed. "I would describe what's going to happen in the future as a return to a balanced approach to criminal justice. But you are going to see different outcomes."

Ultimately, he said he sees his huge primary win —150,000 votes out of 200,000, with more votes and, out of the total participation rate, a third higher than any DA candidate in 20 years — as a community mandate for the reforms he promised on the campaign trail. Beyond his own votes, he noted the turnout was well above the average 120,000 votes in the last three primaries for DA.

"That is an explosion of voters who are used to staying home. And they came out for a reason, because they wanted change," he said. "And they're going to get it, because that is why they got up and pulled on their shoes and went to the polls and voted."

Krasner's transition team

Chris Woods, District 1199C leader (co-chair)

Marian B. Tasco, former councilwoman (co-chair)

Jeff Brown, Shoprite CEO

Ronald Castille, former Philly DA and Supreme Court justice

Michael Coard, civil rights and defense attorney

Michael DiBerardinis, city managing director

Carolyn Engle Temin, former judge

Charles Gibbs, attorney

Marie Gottschalk, UPenn professor

Ryan Hancock, attorney and Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity board member

Elizabeth Holtzman, former U.S. rep.

Sylvester Johnson, former police commissioner

Movita Johnson Harrell, victim advocate

Joanna McClinton, state rep.

Patricia Pierce, attorney

Maria Quinones Sanchez, councilwoman