Amistad Law Project Joins Philly DA's Office to Stand Against PA's Act 40

Sean Damon speaks at press conference at district attorney's office

On Thursday, District Attorney Larry Krasner filed a suit to block Act 40, a state law that revokes his authority to investigate and prosecute crimes that occur on SEPTA properties and hands it over to an unelected special prosecutor. It's unclear what constitutes as crimes "in SEPTA," but there's precedent for an interpretation of the bill that could strip Krasner's authority over any crimes that happen within 500 yards of a SEPTA property, which constitutes 83% of Philadelphia's land mass and where 95% of all criminal incedents occurred in recent years. 

We joined community members, advocates, and elected officials at the District Attorney’s office for a press conference about this latest episode in a long line of attacks on Philadelphia's twice democratically-elected District Attorney from lawmakers in Harrisburg. The PA legislature’s outrageous decision to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee crimes that occur near SEPTA properties in Philadelphia—and no other county in PA—potentially strips our DA of the authority to prosecute crimes in virtually all of our city. This legislation, which notably passed with bi-partisan support, is a direct attack on DA Krasner and the predominately Black and Brown voters that elected him twice with an overwhelming majority.

Meanwhile, lawmakers denied requested funding for public transit in the state budget. SEPTA faces an annual operating deficit of $240 million with the expiration of federal COVID relief funds this spring, which is roughly 20% of what they need to cover expenses. The state’s failure to fund SEPTA will translate to significant fare hikes and deep service cuts that will disrupt Philadelphians' commutes to work and school. Many working people can’t afford higher fares.

Our Legislative Director, Sean Damon, spoke alongside others in our movement, saying Act 40 is an undemocratic move to infringe on the ability of DA Krasner to carry out the job Philadelphians elected him to do. If the PA state legislature and the governor cared about safety on SEPTA, they would fund it.

“We are calling out the hypocrisy of those in both parties who voted to disenfranchise Philly voters by stripping the authority of our twice democratically elected DA to have jurisdiction over our city’s public transportation system and who also effectively voted to defund SEPTA, which will lead to service cuts and worse. This is political theft and it has nothing at all to do with public safety,” said Sean Damon.

“We have a message: Philadelphia is not going to allow you to get away with it. We will see you in the courts, in the streets, and at the state capitol.”