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May 122017
 

Read & Watch the Philly DA Candidates’ Responses on Victim Advocacy

There are seven Democratic candidates and one Republican in the race for District Attorney of Philadelphia. Get more info about each candidate here.

On May 16, Philadelphia residents will vote in the Primary Election for the Democratic nominee. Find your polling place in Philadelphia.

Victim advocacy is one of the most critical jobs of the District Attorney. Investigating crimes and successfully prosecuting them requires cooperation of victims, who need and deserve support. Whether it’s gun violence, sexual violence or child abuse, Philadelphia needs a District Attorney with experience and passion when it comes to advocating for victims.

On May 3, Laffey, Bucci & Kent co-hosted the Voices for Victims Forum, where candidates for DA were invited to speak about their positions on victim advocacy and crime in Philadelphia. The full 90+ minute forum is available on Youtube (Watch the Youtube Video: Voices for Victims – Philadelphia District Attorney Candidate Forum).

Below is a transcript of each candidate’s response to a question about their advocacy on behalf of crime victims. The order of the responses listed below follows the order at the forum. Links to the Youtube video which correspond to the specific candidate’s response are also provided. Teresa Carr Deni and Tariq El-Shabazz were not present for the forum.

Question: What have you done over the course of your life and career that should persuade the voters that you will be the best advocate on behalf of victims of gun violence, sexual violence, domestic violence and child abuse?

Jack O’Neill (https://youtu.be/9f9yoSfMA20?t=7m15s)

Thank you all very much for being here. As many of you know, last February, I made one of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make. I left the DA’s office. I left many of you. As you know, being a district attorney is not a job. It’s your life, it’s who you are. For 10 years, I stood with you and fought for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and gun violence. For 10 years, I was in the special victims’ unit with so many of you, fighting for people who were victimized, standing up for you. On weekends, sitting on the floor with little kids, trying to gain their trust so that we could stand up for kids. In the homicide unit, I worked with many of you, for families of people who were murdered. I’m not running because I’m the best of any of you. I’m running because I want to go back there and continue the work I did for my entire professional career, which is to fight for victims with all of you.

Michael Untermeyer (https://youtu.be/9f9yoSfMA20?t=8m23s)

Thank you for having me today. After law school, I went into the District Attorney’s office because I wanted to be an advocate for victims. I volunteered to be one of three lawyers that started what was then a new domestic violence unit. This was back in 1985. [*] Back then, domestic violence wasn’t considered to be a crime. The three of us in that unit had to take on the city, take on the establishment, the police, the courts, the public. Victims of domestic violence had never had advocacy before we got there. We were there to change the world and we really hadn’t started that process because again, we were there to represent victims. That’s why I went to the District Attorney’s office.

Joe Khan (https://youtu.be/9f9yoSfMA20?t=9m23s)

Thank you, all of you, for being here. It’s amazing to look at the sea of faces and see so many people who are advocates for victims and also survivors. It’s been my privilege to have as my calling to be a prosecutor. As many of you know I went to the DA’s office to prosecute these cases, to stand up for those who wouldn’t have otherwise had a voice, victims of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence. When I wrapped up my 6 years at the DA’s office and went on to the US Attorney’s, office, I came back, not for money, not for status, but because I could not leave behind the dozens of victims that had been hurt by these serial sex offenders. I spent the next year, my first year at the US Attorney’s office, continuing to serve the DA’s office, to seek justice. I spent 16 years without exception seeking justice for victims of these crimes. When I was at the US Attorney’s office, I was the court end of the violent crime team which was dedicated to reducing gun violence and making sure that the assaults and homicides and to stop gun violence in the city. The only reason I left my job was to become your next DA. And I will be dedicated throughout my career to these very victims.

Rich Negrin ( https://youtu.be/9f9yoSfMA20?t=10m35s)

So first of all, thank you so much for hosting this forum. There’s been a lot of conversation and talk in this campaign. And we’ve done maybe 150 of these. No, I’m kidding. Maybe 50 believe it or not. But my journey began when I was 13 years old, a long time ago. Where I was a crime victim, I was a victim of gun violence. Many of you know my story, about how my dad was murdered and shot dead in front of me when I was 13.

This has not been a professional vocation for me. This is a passion. I promise you there’s nobody on this stage who has fought harder for our victims and for the safety of our children than I have. And I promise you that’s why I’m running. This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about some progressive agenda. This isn’t about us meaning to do something different other than fight and advocate and do what we can for our victims here in Philadelphia. I’ll talk more about that. I’m Rich Negrin and I want to be your DA on May 16.

Lawrence Krasner (https://youtu.be/9f9yoSfMA20?t=11m46s)

Thank you all for being here. There are some victims right here, who need a little advocacy right now because they have been trying for 3 forums to ask questions and for reasons beyond their control, they haven’t been able to do it. They are [named…] I see two of you. I don’t know if you’re all three here. But I hope they’ll have a chance to ask the questions they’ve been trying to ask for 3 different forums. [Moderator: They submitted them. We have them.]

So it is a longer talk and hopefully I’ll get to do it with other questions because I only have 30 seconds. But fighting now, I’m representing a child victim of rape whose rapist went to jail and immediately tried to sell the house out from under her. So she couldn’t get access to it. My law firm jumped in and made sure that money went into an escrow account. And he’s being sued for the purpose of putting that money into treatment during the course of her life and she may need a lot of it.

There are two small children whose mother was killed by a drunk driver. And I’m almost out of time and as these questions proceed, I’ll try and give you some more examples of work that I’ve done [*].

Beth Grossman (https://youtu.be/9f9yoSfMA20?t=12m57s)

Advocates, survivors and former colleagues, I’m so honored to be here. I spent 21 and a half years in the District Attorney’s office in every division. Our role is to champion the rights of victims and enforce the law lawfully, ethically and fairly.

I spent many times, years ago, in my juvenile court rotation, handling cases of child abuse, getting them ready for court, people who were victims of gunpoint robbery and just juveniles who were victimized by other juveniles.

But I also know how important the role of our victim advocates are and the service that you provide. For several years, I’m proud that I was chair of the District Attorney’s funding committee which is responsible for the distribution of city funds to the numerous victim witness service providers. I was chair of the local policy board with regard to the vote of funds that deals with other money funds to support you. I know how important and the role you play in what is needed to get the job done. So I commend you for your job and I think my knowledge makes me an excellent candidate for District Attorney.

[* Indicates a minor portion of the recording that was not clearly audible.]