Porngate Claims Its Newest Victim, Part I

Just days after taking office, DA Krasner wields axe

(Photo Left) Attorney General Larry Krasner is cutting old scandals and attitudes from his staff.  Original portrait courtesy of krasnerforda.com

You can’t say they didn’t see it coming. Newly sworn in District Attorney Larry Krasner ran on a campaign platform of changing the culture of the office. He put his mantle where his mouth is by almost immediately firing nearly 10% of his staff. Those assistant district attorneys who believed he was just going to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic just hit the iceberg.


When we first read the headline, “Leaked list shows Krasner firings targeted top staff, ‘Porngate’ prosecutors,” we said, “about time.” Loyal readers of The Point will know that we have been beating the drum for firing the Porngate prosecutors for over two years; ever since former district attorney Seth Williams issued his inanity-riddled report on their behavior in September 2015.


As there will no doubt be much hand wringing among the entrenched prosecutorial crowd about the unfairness of these firings, it is a good time to refresh our reader’s memories about the conduct that underlies the dismissals.


The Porngate prosecutors who received the axe earlier this month are Pat Blessington and Mark Costanzo, two transfers into the DAs office from the Attorney General’s office; they followed their colleague, Frank Fina who left the DAs office in the wake of the scandal breaking around him in 2016.


Editors note: The initial reporting listed both Blessington and Costanzo on the leaked list of terminated ADAs.  Subsequent reporting has cast doubt on whether Blessington was on an initial list, then subsequently removed.  The DA has publicly confirmed no names of ADAs dismissed.


Inquirer reporter, Wendy Ruderman gave us a glimpse and broke the story in December 2015:

The subject line read: “Hot Ghetto Mess”!


“The Aug. 13, 2010, email, sent by then-Deputy Attorney General William Davis to fellow state prosecutors - including Marc Costanzo, John Flannery and Pat Blessington - contained more than two dozen images, mostly of black people, with derogatory, hateful and racist comments:

* A photo of a young black man in his underwear, perched atop an outdoor air-conditioning unit, paired with the words, HE BELONGS ON A FARM!

* A photo of a heavyset woman eating a drumstick with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken clutched in one arm. AND WHY IS SHE STILL EATING?

* A photo of three young black women, THE ‘NEW’ THREE STOOGES.”


This story led Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass to ask, "When you have prosecutors who are looking at emails entitled ‘Hot ghetto mess,’ how do we reconcile with that as an African-American? … How do I reconcile myself with the fact that [prosecutors] have circulated these sorts of emails, that [prosecutors] have pushed out this type of content and at the same time, [prosecutors] have a case file entitled 'Black Caucus' investigation and you are targeting African-American legislators and looking at them taking bribes?” 


“[In December 2015], by a voice vote, City Council members overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on District Attorney Seth Williams to fire prosecutors Costanzo, Blessington and Frank Fina …”


What was equally disturbing about these three prosecutors was the role they played in the Attorney General’s Office prior to their coming to work for Seth Williams.


We first described their conduct in September 2015; “[Assistant Attorney General] Dianne Buckwash,” according to HuffPo.com, “alleged in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the men in the attorney general’s office held all the power, women were rarely promoted and executives in the Criminal Law Division were known to email around photos of nude women and ‘adults engaged in sex acts.’”


Holy #MeToo Batman. Two years ago, these guys were exposed as sexual harassers exchanging racist materials on their public computers.  Had Ruderman’s article, “Hot Ghetto Mess” ran in the post-Harvey Weinstein era, we are pretty sure City Council’s resolution would have had teeth enough to bite Seth Williams into sanity and fire these guys on the spot.


They should consider themselves lucky they kept collecting a public salary and were not summarily fired when this first came to light.

But there is more to the firings than just “Porngate.”  According to phillyweekly.com, “One source inside the DA’s Office – who held onto his job – described a list of two dozen fired attorneys circulating among staff as “supervisors with different visions, veteran high-salaried do-nothings or younger prosecutors associated with misconduct.”


On behalf of the women, African Americans, taxpayers, oh hell, all Philadelphians, thank you DA Krasner. 


Next week: How the other side of “Porngate” that led to the sudden end of a career prosecutor.




Porngate Claims Its Newest Victim, Part I

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