Speaking for the first time publicly since cutting more than 30 employees from the payroll, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced his choices to fill five leadership positions, including his chief of staff and the head of the homicide unit.
Krasner made the announcement Tuesday afternoon during an hour-long meeting with the press, where he discussed the staffing changes and explained his reasoning behind the recent reshuffle that was the source of some disruption in the courthouse Monday.
Although he did not speak specifically about the people who he asked to resign, he said that those who were asked to leave did not agree with his plans for the office.
“We ultimately concluded that these individuals were not consistent with the mission either in terms of their ideology, or their fundamental beliefs, or for other reasons, and we determined that it would be better for them to work elsewhere,” he said, adding the changes were based on interviews with “multiple sources” including judges and prosecutors within the office. ”The coach gets to pick the team. That does not necessarily mean the players who were traded were bad players.”
Krasner said the office was “able to take advantage” of the Jan. 5 snowstorm so that “individuals asked to resign did not have to walk past their colleagues with a box of their belongings.” However, defense attorneys on Monday said the timing of the shake-up caused some confusion in the courthouse, including a three-month pushback in the start of one homicide trial.
Krasner said the office is taking steps to minimize the disruption of ongoing cases, but that the shake-up was necessary to change the culture of the office.
“We are making every effort to ensure that, number one, cases are properly prepared, number two, the victims and witnesses are appraised of what’s going on, and, number three, we can proceed wherever possible,” he said. “We have very capable staff here who are used to picking up other people’s cases.”
Along with bringing on Nancy Winkelman, a partner at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, at the beginning of the year to become the interim supervisor of the office’s law department, which handles appeals, Krasner also announced Tuesday that he has brought on Anthony Voci to become the interim chief of the homicide unit, which, according to numerous sources, was cut by about one-third during the shake-up last week.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Voci worked in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office from 1995 to 2006. A statement from Krasner’s office said Voci spent two consecutive stints serving in the homicide unit during his tenure at the office.
As chief of staff, Krasner brought in Arun Prabhakaran, a nonlawyer who has been a vice president and chief of external affairs at the Urban Affairs Coalition, which is a group aimed at organizing nonprofits and government agencies and has about 300 employees, according to its website.
He also announced that attorney Mike Lee will become the office’s interim director of legislation. Lee was a co-founder of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equality, and launched a project that expanded expungement clinics throughout the city.
The announcements came one day after Krasner said he would bring on Movita Johnson-Harrell as interim supervisor of Victim Services.
Although all of the appointments have been named “interim supervisors,” Krasner said there is no specific end-date for their leadership tenure. Rather, he plans to structure the office so that leadership positions are not presumed to be permanent, but that supervisors will be regularly evaluated by their subordinates.
“Supervisors become entrenched and they fall out of touch with the daily activities of the people they supervise, so for example you may have a chief of some trial unit who hasn’t tried a case in a decade, or 15 years,” he said. ”We are doing it to send a clear message that supervision will not be a permanent condition, at least for the most part.”
Krasner also outlined several other changes he is anticipating for the office. He said two prosecutors within the office have been transferred to the homicide unit, and he expects to bring two to three more prosecutors into that unit soon. He also said he plans to at least double the size of the office’s conviction review unit.
Regarding morale in the office, Krasner said the changes have created ”quite a bit of enthusiasm” from some attorneys within the office who have been promoted or transferred.