In 1940, Attorney General Robert Jackson proclaimed, “While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst.”
There are more than just five bad prosecutors currently in office in the United States. But the following five prosecutors have earned notoriety as the worst in America based on vital criteria—public safety, fidelity to the rule of law, personal integrity, leadership, responsible innovations, community relations, office morale, and teamwork with other players in the criminal-justice system. (The list extends beyond just five individuals because some jurisdictions have suffered under the policies of multiple prosecutors.)
Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore: Elected in 2014 as Baltimore state’s attorney, Mosby was one of the first prosecutors to campaign on a platform of de-prosecution, decarceration, and denouncing the police—indeed, the entire criminal-justice system—as racist. Once in office, she delivered on her promises. The results for Baltimore have been devastating. Homicides in the city shot up to 342 in her first year in office—a 38 percent increase—and have not dropped below 300 during any year of her tenure. Mosby has attacked the police relentlessly, including her attempt to prosecute six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, which resulted in no convictions and an ethics complaint against her. She refuses to prosecute entire categories of crimes, much to the dismay of Baltimore businesses. Mosby seems to have no substantive plans for the office, instead spending her time skipping work and traveling around the country, according to an inspector general’s report. Not surprisingly, Baltimore’s population has declined by 35,000 between 2010 and 2020, as residents continue to flee the violence-plagued city. A relentless publicity hound, Mosby has made her most recent media appearances to respond to her indictment by federal authorities for perjury. Charm City’s chief prosecutor has succeeded in offending the departing citizens of Baltimore, the business community, law enforcement, and other prosecutors. Her only remaining supporters appear to be the convicted criminals she treats so leniently—a club that she might join.
Larry Krasner, Josh Shapiro, and Bill McSwain, Philadelphia: For the past five years, Philadelphia has experienced frightening increases in violence, topping out with a new record of 562 homicides in 2021. The skyrocketing violence can be traced to drug trafficking and felons carrying firearms. The three prosecutors who might have done something to protect Philadelphia have been asleep at the switch. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Bill McSwain all share blame.
Krasner shoulders the greatest responsibility. The George Soros-backed official never served as a prosecutor prior to his 2017 election, instead working as a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, usually battling with the police. As district attorney, Krasner succeeded in driving out the office’s experienced prosecutors and even alienating the prosecutors he recruited to join him. He is reluctant to prosecute and incarcerate even gun-toting felons. After Krasner claimed that “we don’t have a crisis of crime” in Philadelphia, despite mounting homicides, former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter called Krasner’s comments “some of the worst, most ignorant, and most insulting comments I have ever heard spoken by an elected official.” Instead of addressing the ongoing violence in Philadelphia, Krasner and his staff spent time posing for a fawning PBS series about what a great job the district attorney’s office is doing for the city. Multiple members of Krasner’s staff have gotten into legal hot water for their misconduct, including his victim-witness coordinator, convicted of stealing from a charity. Krasner’s campaign admitted to violating campaign-finance laws during each of his campaigns. Unsurprisingly, Krasner is the first Philadelphia district attorney in decades not to serve on the executive committee of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, instead withdrawing his office from the organization.
But Krasner is not the only prosecutor with jurisdiction over Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who, like Krasner, never previously served as a prosecutor, can also prosecute drug dealers and felons in possession of firearms in the city. In fact, the Pennsylvania legislature specifically granted the attorney general’s office authority to prosecute gun crimes in Philadelphia in response to Krasner’s ineffectiveness. Instead of investigating and charging suspects in scores of gun and drug cases that Krasner wouldn’t prosecute, however, Shapiro meekly claimed that the new legislation “doesn’t change anything” and that his office would continue to coordinate with Krasner’s staff on prosecuting gun crimes. Shapiro, now a candidate for governor, had no interest in bucking Philadelphia’s progressive voters.
The final prosecutor with jurisdiction over drug and gun crimes in Philadelphia is Donald Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain. McSwain often criticized Krasner for being soft on crime and criminals, but his own prosecutors have criticized him for using the office to fuel his political ambitions. Moreover, a review of Justice Department statistics reveals that under McSwain, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia has prosecuted the fewest cases per year in recent history. At its peak, the office charged more than 700 federal cases per year; under McSwain, it indicted only 470 cases in 2018 and a paltry 362 cases in 2020.
Poor Philadelphia. So many prosecutors, so much violence. And none of them willing to put down the media microphone long enough to protect citizens.
Kim Gardner, St. Louis: Another Soros-backed prosecutor, elected St. Louis Circuit Attorney in 2016, Kim Gardner refuses to prosecute many crimes. In 2019, she prosecuted only 1,641 of the 7,045 felony prosecutions sought by the St. Louis Police Department. During 2010, under her predecessor, 9,911 criminal cases were charged in St. Louis; by 2019, under Gardner, that had fallen to 6,425 criminal cases. Gardner justifies her de-prosecution philosophy as a response to what she believes is a racist criminal-justice system. Her office has seen more than 100 percent turnover, as line prosecutors quit in droves. When a prosecutor assigned to a homicide case was out on maternity leave, Gardner failed to appoint another prosecutor to handle the case, leading to multiple failures to appear for hearings related to the case and ultimate dismissal of the homicide charges. The judge on the case stated that Gardner’s office “essentially abandoned its duty to prosecute those it charges with crimes.” The prosecutor on maternity leave quit in disgust. Gardner has also alienated St. Louis police by filing a suit accusing them of a racist conspiracy to undermine her, a suit promptly dismissed. She has admitted to violating ethical rules in her prosecution of the former Missouri governor, which ended without a conviction. With felons not being prosecuted, experienced prosecutors leaving, and the police made into enemies, Gardner has ushered in the highest homicide rate in the history of St. Louis.
Chesa Boudin, George Gascón, and Kamala Harris, San Francisco: San Francisco is an incredibly wealthy city with outstanding architecture and a rich tradition in the arts. How could it have arrived at its current lawless and chaotic state? It took years of work by a succession of bad prosecutors.
That sequence of official incompetence begins with Kamala Harris, who was elected San Francisco district attorney in 2004 with the backing of former mayor Willie Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and comedian Chris Rock. In her campaign, Harris vowed never to seek the death penalty. A gang member gunned down a police officer shortly after she took office, but she refused to reconsider that position, drawing the ire of the police. Then, when experienced members of Harris’s staff told her that the office lacked a policy for keeping track of and disclosing credibility issues for police officers (a constitutionally mandated duty), Harris declined to create such a policy because she did not want to hurt her political chances by picking another fight with the police. Her failure to enact such a policy led to approximately1,000 cases being dismissed and a judge criticizing Harris for not ensuring defendants’ rights. Harris then went on to win election as California attorney general, but the seeds of San Francisco’s chaos had been sown.
George Gascón, a high school dropout who had never previously served as a prosecutor, followed Harris as San Francisco DA. Gascón immediately went all-in for fashionable progressive reforms: ending cash bail, reducing felonies to misdemeanors, refusing to charge many misdemeanor cases at all, failing to pursue drug prosecutions, and other liberal favorites. Property crimes began to rise, and the gap between the police department and the DA widened. Backed by Soros, Gascón then left San Francisco to spread the progressive prosecutor’s gospel as district attorney for Los Angeles, where his own prosecutors greeted him with a lawsuit that aimed to stop him from bringing his de-prosecution policies to their city.
Chesa Boudin, also funded by Soros, followed Gascón. Boudin, too, had no prosecutorial experience; his prior work consisted of serving as a translator in the Hugo Chavez administration in Venezuela and as a public defender. Boudin took all of Gascón’s liberal policies and amplified them. He told the police not to bother arresting shoplifters, open-air drug users, or people camping out in the city’s public spaces. Property crimes soared for businesses and residents. The legendary streets of San Francisco became a seething mess of homelessness, drug use, and disorder.
With the decline of the city reaching a critical stage, citizens have triggered a recall effort against Boudin, backed by some of the prosecutors who quit the office because of his policies. To be fair, the City by the Bay should retroactively recall Harris and Gascón as well, since it took almost 20 years of sustained incompetence by three successive prosecutors for San Francisco to reach its current state.
Kim Foxx, Chicago: The final entry in our list is Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Bankrolled by Soros, Foxx has followed the progressive prosecutor handbook: refuse to prosecute an array of offenses, seek to de-criminalize drugs, stop using cash bail, and decarcerate even in the case of serious offenders. By 2021, Foxx’s fifth year in office, Chicago recorded 836 homicides, the most killings in any city in the nation and the most in Chicago in a quarter century. Foxx claims that the criminal-justice system is racist but ignores the fact that the majority of murder victims in her city are minorities. Foxx infamously tried to dismiss charges against actor Jussie Smollett for staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself, before a judge ordered a special prosecutor to take over the case, resulting in Smollett’s conviction. Foxx’s response was that any criticism of her was racist and that Smollett’s conviction was a failure of the criminal justice system. Foxx faces an ethics complaint over her handling of the investigation.
In one of the most perplexing decisions of her tumultuous tenure, Foxx decided not to charge gang members after a midday Wild West-style shootout in a crowded neighborhood, initially claiming that the legal doctrine of “mutual combat” precluded charges. Even liberal Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot denounced Foxx, stating, “We can’t live in a world where there’s no accountability.” One person was killed in the shootout and two were injured. Foxx eventually agreed to press charges, but only against one gang member, and only for the offense of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, not murder.
Reviewing these prosecutors as a group, some common themes emerge. All have sat by and watched as violence, and crime more generally, have increased during their tenures. Several have no prior experience as prosecutors. The majority prefer to ignore some criminal laws entirely, overruling the legislative branch about what laws should be enforced. They often appear to care more about criminal defendants than crime victims. Funding from Soros played a role in winning elections for quite a few. Alleging racism is one of their go-to responses when criticized. They destroy the morale of their own prosecutors. They antagonize or refuse to work with the police. Ethical complaints abound. Their political ambition and arrogance are overwhelming. Each seems to love the limelight, seeking media exposure at every turn. These attributes are a recipe for disaster for American cities.
“In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve,” the old adage has it. In the United States, chief prosecutors are elected (though U.S. attorneys are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate). The citizens of American cities have chosen these prosecutors and even reelected several of them. Now that they’re seeing the results of these choices, will they vote to restore the rule of law to their cities and neighborhoods? American voters make some puzzling decisions but usually return to common sense eventually. Stay hopeful that they will do so again—and soon.