Inside the Philadelphia DA’s side hustle — selling seized homes to speculators and cops

In neighborhoods across Philadelphia, …police seized properties after drug raids. Once they were taken, the district attorney auctioned them off to the highest bidder, for cash that went back to the law enforcement agencies. The legal process is known as civil asset forfeiture.

…controversially, with no guilty verdict required.

…A forfeiture petition for one property lists one gram of marijuana, a half gram of cocaine and some over-the-counter pills as justification for taking. In one case recently settled in a $3 million class-action lawsuit, Norys Hernandez nearly lost the rowhouse she and her sister owned after police arrested her nephew on drug dealing charges and seized the house. Another family named in the suit fought to save their house from the grip of law enforcement after their son was arrested for selling $40 worth of drugs outside of it. Of the lawsuit’s four named plaintiffs, three had their houses targeted for seizure after police accused relatives dealing drugs on the property. None of the homeowners were themselves accused of committing a crime.

…The failure of law enforcement to plan for the reuse of these forfeited properties, which often held marginal real estate value, means that many wound up in the hands of absentee landlords or investors who often did not have the resources or motivation to improve the properties. The largest single buyer of forfeited property was a self-described real estate speculator who dabbles in rent-to-own schemes. As many as 325 of these properties appear to be vacant years after their sale and 427 are tax delinquent.

…Finally, records showed that members of Philadelphia law enforcement directly benefited from these sales. This investigation detected at least 11 properties that were sold to Philadelphia police officers trying their hands at real estate investment.

…The full number of sales to police could be much higher. But the Philadelphia Police Department refused to disclose any information about the sale of forfeited property to its officers and a spokesman for the DA said the office had not kept records of who bought auctioned property — or even how many properties were sold.

Critics say these sales to officers demonstrate a conflict of interest and highlight the ethical flaws in a system they say creates a financial incentive for law enforcement to take private property.

…These seizures were notably focused in black and Latino neighborhoods with high rates of poverty. Forty-one percent of all forfeited properties were concentrated in just four ZIP codes in North Philadelphia and Kensington, all with majority black or Latino populations and poverty rates well above the city’s average. For comparison, other large swaths of the Philadelphia, such as Center City, never saw a single property forfeited. Ever.

PlanPhilly | Inside the Philadelphia DA’s side hustle — selling seized homes to speculators and cops



Democrats Calling For Reform Win Two County Attorney Seats

County attorneys oversee law enforcement and set criminal justice priorities in each county.

Only two county attorney races were close – and in both, Democrats beat out Republican incumbents with a promise of criminal justice reform.

In Merrimack County, public defender Robin Davis won after she was nominated as a write-in Democratic candidate during the primaries.

…Davis plans to prioritize rehabilitation for people with drug charges and look at building an alternative sentencing program for some non-citizens to reduce their risk of deportation after arrest.

Democrats Calling For Reform Win Two County Attorney Seats | New Hampshire Public Radio


Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner offers his most radical criminal justice reform yet.

Among other head-turning changes, Philadelphia’s district attorney has stopped prosecuting marijuana possession, instructed his 300 assistant district attorneys to stop seeking bail on low-level charges, and had his office begin plea negotiations below the low end of the state’s sentencing guidelines.

…Krasner has challenged the idea that every person convicted of killing should be sent away for the rest of their lives, which is the mandatory minimum sentence for first- or second- degree murder in Pennsylvania. He has mandated that he personally sign off on any deal offered that exceeds 15 to 30 years in prison. According to a recent Philadelphia Inquirer analysis, in six cases that were initially filed as “murder generally” Krasner sought third-degree or involuntary manslaughter charges rather than the first- or second-degree murder charges that would have been the norm under his predecessors. While comprehensive national comparisons are hard to come by, criminal justice experts view this willingness to lower murder charges as a first of its kind effort among prosecutors in major municipalities.

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner offers his most radical criminal justice reform yet.


Nancy Pelosi On North Carolina Election Fraud: We Can Refuse To Seat That Congressman

Pelosi is referring to the scandal unfolding in two North Carolina counties where investigators are trying to figure out whether there’s a nefarious reason so many absentee ballots were never mailed back. In Bladen County, which has a large black population, 40 percent of absentee ballots were never returned. A whopping 62 percent of absentee ballots were not mailed back in nearby Robeson County, which is 38 percent Native American.

Both counties far exceeded the district’s non-return rate of 24 percent, and Bladen was the only county in which Harris won the mail-in absentee vote.

…Pelosi noted that Republicans in the state are also upset about the race because of how fraud may have affected their primary election. Worst comes to worst, she said, the House Administration Committee has “full investigative authority” to determine the winner of the race and could take that “extraordinary step” if North Carolina officials can’t get to the bottom of what happened.

“This is bigger than that one seat. This is about undermining the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said. “What was done there was so remarkable, in that that person, those entities, got away with that.”

Nancy Pelosi On North Carolina Election Fraud: We Can Refuse To Seat That Congressman | HuffPost


Concord pushes for river access in I-93 widening project

The plans DOT are presenting now include creating sidewalks and bicycle lanes along Loudon Road where it runs beneath the interstate, a tweak to the plan the city suggested and DOT incorporated.

But the city wants more to be included in the state’s project, such as clearing the brush that runs along the interstate for a clearer view of the Merrimack River and building pedestrian bridges for access between the river and the downtown area.

Aspell said he realizes the city’s request may be outside of DOT’s normal scope, “but we are certain that this project through the heart of Concord is unique to the state’s I-93 inventory,” he said.

Concord pushes for river access in I-93 widening project