-- Impeachment Managers State Reps Craig Williams (R-Delaware/Chester) and Tim Bonner (Mercer/Butler) announced they are filing an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from the Commonwealth Court’s Dec. 30 decision.
“We will pursue the impeachment trial for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for misbehavior in public office, as outlined in the Articles of Impeachment passed by the Pennsylvania House in November 2022,” Williams said. “There are specific instances of misuse of power which constitutes misbehavior in office, which were not addressed by the Commonwealth Court. Further, the evenly divided court opinion left unanswered whether certain articles of impeachment were upheld within the constitutional purview of the Pennsylvania Senate.”
After the Senate set an impeachment trial date of Jan. 18, 2023, Krasner raised three objections to the impeachment proceedings with the Commonwealth Court. The court only approved one. That objection was that the seven articles of impeachment did not describe conduct that constitutes misbehavior in office, which is the standard for impeachment under Article VI, Section 6 of the Constitution.
“Our position is that the House of Representatives and the State Senate have the sole authority according to the Constitution to determine what constitutes misbehavior in office,” Bonner said. “We also believe the court ruled without hearing all of the evidence that proves Krasner’s conduct was performed with improper or corrupt intent, which the Senate is constitutionally required to consider as part of the impeachment proceedings.”
In addition, three articles of impeachment set out specific cases in which Krasner performed discretionary duties with improper or corrupt motives, which defines the impeachable offense of misbehavior in office, to abuse his official power to the detriment of the legal rights of others.
The Commonwealth Court did not address that improper conduct, but instead concluded those articles of impeachment may not be constitutionally considered because the articles allege violations of Pennsylvania Supreme Court ethics rules. Impeachment Chairman Williams and Impeachment Manager Bonner maintain they may prove the underlying misconduct itself constitutes misbehavior in office without relying on ethics rules as a basis.
The Case of Officer Ryan Pownall
Williams and Bonner point directly to Krasner’s handling of a 2017 case involving a police officer as a prime example of his misbehavior in office with an “improper or corrupt motive.”
Proof of Krasner’s misbehavior in office stems from his conspiring to undermine and violate the individual rights of Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall and efforts to put Pownall in jail for protecting himself and others in the line of duty.
On June 8, 2017, Officer Pownall transported a father and two children to Philadelphia’s Special Victims Unit. During that transport, Pownall observed the suspect, David Jones, unlawfully and dangerously operating a dirt bike. When Officer Pownall approached the suspect, he observed Jones attempting to hide a handgun at his waist. Officer Pownall reacted accordingly by grasping Jones to protect his safety and the safety of others in the immediate area, including the father and two minor children in the rear of Pownall’s police vehicle.
Pownall immediately felt the handgun concealed in Jones’ waistband and, on multiple occasions, commanded Jones to refrain from resisting. Pownall lost physical control over Jones and his concealed weapon during this struggle. Pownall feared for his life, pulled his issued firearm, and again ordered Jones to stop resisting, but Jones failed to comply. Jones was ultimately shot. Police recovered a stolen gun loaded with multiple live rounds of ammunition on the ground near the encounter between Pownall and Jones.
In effectuating an arrest, a peace officer is justified in the use of deadly force under Pennsylvania law if the officer believes such force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or others. (Title 18, Section 508, Pennsylvania Statutes.) An internal investigation determined the use of force was lawfully justified.
In January 2018, Larry Krasner assumed office as Philadelphia district attorney and renewed the investigation into Pownall’s shooting. What transpired in the following months led a majority of the House of Representatives to conclude Krasner abused the authority of his office, putting his own motives and agendas before the rights of an individual.
By his own public admission, Krasner and his office used the investigatory grand jury process rather than the judicial process to subvert the justification defense in Section 508.
First, Krasner purposefully manipulated the court system to proceed without a preliminary hearing, the standard early legal review by an impartial judicial officer in all felony criminal cases filed in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system. Believing that if a judge reviewed the case at a preliminary hearing, the charges against Pownall would be dismissed. Krasner instead directed his office to take an alternate route and present the case to an investigative grand jury, thus depriving Pownall of an essential procedural safeguard in our criminal justice system.
Once the case was before the grand jury, Krasner’s office misled the grand jury by not instructing them on the law governing homicide and not instructing them on Section 508 whatsoever.
The grand jurors never had a chance to consider whether Pownall’s actions were lawful under applicable Pennsylvania law. Years later, a Philadelphia judge would throw out the charges against Pownall because of this egregious misconduct in the grand jury. But that was only after repeated violations of Pownall’s rights as Krasner’s misbehavior in office unfolded. Following an indictment by the grand jury on misapplied law, Pownall was arrested and detained in jail.
That same Philadelphia judge also found that Krasner and his office misled and misinformed the supervising grand jury judge in convincing that judge to bypass Pownall’s right to a preliminary hearing – which, as Krasner himself publicly acknowledged – was the stated intent behind him putting the case before a grand jury in the first place.
Krasner then filed an unauthorized interlocutory appeal to get the courts to strike down Section 508 (lawful use of force) and to retroactively change the law in Pownall’s case.
This patently unlawful act was an additional deprivation to Pownall’s constitutional and statutory rights to a fair and speedy trial.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the district attorney’s appeal, with Justice Kevin Dougherty writing separately to address the egregious misconduct by Krasner unlawfully prosecuting Pownall. The trial court later confirmed this misconduct after hearings and a confrontation with the district attorney’s office.
In the course of hearings after remand from the Supreme Court, the trial court was informed of an expert report commissioned by Krasner’s office. That report ultimately concluded the use of force by Pownall was lawful. That exculpatory report – or even its existence – was never disclosed to Pownall or his attorneys, further evidencing an improper or corrupt motive to deprive Pownall of his constitutional rights. In the face of these facts and the conduct of Krasner’s office, the trial court threw out the case.
“In all my time as a prosecutor, I have never seen such deplorable conduct by someone charged with representing the safety and interests of the public,” Williams said. “Misleading the grand jury about the law; hiding that fact from the supervising judge; circumventing due process rights to a preliminary hearing to further hide misleading the grand jury; seeking impermissible appeal to the Supreme Court to retroactively make unlawful what was lawful when it was done; and concealing exculpatory evidence. All of these actions separately constitute misbehavior in office. Together, they are evidence of improper or corrupt motive in depriving Officer Pownall of his constitutional rights to liberty.”
This misconduct, and the deliberate misrepresentations and illegalities it entailed, constituted a gross abuse of power by Krasner. Because of these actions, the House impeachment managers, on behalf of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, are filing an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to continue the impeachment trial.
“We are taking this appeal because we are firmly convinced the separation of powers dictates the Pennsylvania Senate determine what facts constitute misbehavior in office, which is the failure to perform a positive ministerial duty or performance of a discretionary duty with an improper or corrupt motive,” Bonner said. “We are also confident the facts set out in the Articles of Impeachment support a guilty finding for misbehavior in office and any concern about invoking the rules of ethics in the articles is a preference for form over the substance of the misconduct.”
Representative Craig Williams
160th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster
RepCraigWilliams.com / Facebook.com/RepCraigWilliams