New Philly DA Krasner Fires 31 in ‘Broad Reorganization’

Larry Krasner was elected District Attorney on a reform agenda. As many as third of his new office’s homicide prosecutors were asked to leave. Krasner has pledged to end use of the death penalty and cash bail, among other reforms.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner ousted 31 members of the office Friday, a dramatic shake-up and the first major staffing decision announced by the city’s new top prosecutor, just three days after he was sworn in, reports Spokesman Ben Waxman said the dismissals were part of a “broad reorganization” of the office’s structure and a way to implement a culture change in an institution Krasner frequently criticized during the campaign. The sweeping change affected lawyers of all ranks and could represent a 10 percent reduction in the number of prosecutors. As many as a third of the office’s homicide prosecutors were asked to leave.

During his campaign, Krasner pledged to reduce the number of people behind bars, never use the death penalty, and seek to end use of cash bail — goals that earned praise from fellow Democrats and liberal criminal justice observers, but skepticism or scorn from other law enforcement officials. Homicide prosecuitor Andrew Notaristefano had a trial scheduled to start Monday and met with the victim’s family Thursday night to prepare. He was at his desk working Friday when a human resources employee told him he was fired. Derek Riker, chief of the Diversion Courts Unit for five years, was shocked to be let go because “I consider myself one of the progressive people in the office,” responsible for cases that involve alternative treatment and programs instead of incarceration — the types of ideals Krasner campaigned to expand. The District Attorney’s Office employs about 600 people, half of them prosecutors.