As the conversation surrounding safe injection sites ramps up following a cleanup of the city’s most notorious spot for heroin users, Philly DA candidates are weighing in on the conversation.
Tony Luke Jr. knows drug addiction. The cheesesteak scion was hooked on crystal meth as a teen in South Philly and his son, Tony III, died suddenly of a heroin overdose this past spring at age 35. Luke – born Anthony Lucidonio – has seen how addiction can fracture the once rock-solid bond of family first hand, and he hears how the general population treats addicts with such disregard.
“People want to talk about addiction like this is some choice,” an impassioned Luke tells Philly Mag. “NO ONE chooses to ruin my own life and everyone around me. Anyone who thinks that is an IDIOT – totally ignorant and misinformed. You can’t use a blanket statement like that and say it’s a choice. Because addiction is not always a choice and it’s very difficult to get away from. Sometimes it’s impossible.”
Tony III first started abusing drugs when a doctor overprescribed him opioids following an injury. Luke believes that we’re groomed to feel no pain in today’s society, with doctors feeding into that culture by freely handing out prescriptions and refills with only a hollow warning before sending us on our way.
“Just take what you need and stop when you get better – no one’s going to do that!”
After the pills became too expensive, Tony III eventually turned to heroin. He was found dead in the bathroom with a needle in his arm in late March.
“By telling my son Tony’s story, hopefully I can help people understand that drugs have no boundaries,” Luke says. “No matter a person’s circumstance in life, addiction is a possibility. And there is nothing for them to be ashamed of.”
With that thinking in mind, Luke announced a new initiative on Wednesday that he hopes will help remove the social stigma associated with heroin addiction. Luke encourages anyone who has suffered a similar loss of a loved one to wear brown and white (the colors of heroin) and post photos on social media using the hashtag #BrownAndWhite.
Luke stressed that #BrownAndWhite is simply an awareness campaign and he has no plans for fundraising.
“Growing up I knew drug dealers,” Luke says. “They always said ‘Hey Tone, it’s a business – if they aren’t getting it from me they’re getting it from someone else.’ What I want is for everyone who lost someone to put their picture in the window. That way when a drug dealer sees picture after picture he realizes it’s not a business. He’s feeding into a disease that these kids have no control over.”
Follow @jtrinacria on Twitter.
If you see Vince Broomall behind the wheel of a car, you might want to get out of his way. Philly Mag has learned that the 26-year-old Aston resident was the one driving the SUV (his mom’s SUV, by the way) that hit an 11-year-old boy in Kensington on Tuesday, May 16th. And while Broomall hasn’t been arrested or charged in last week’s incident, he has had some run-ins with the cops related to his driving. Read more »
Less than 24 hours after we first told you of Tuesday’s harrowing incident involving an SUV, a young boy, and, allegedly, four bags of heroin, the mother of the boy has come forward to call on police to release the name of the SUV driver and to reconsider making an arrest. Read more »
Tuesday was almost a tragic day for a woman and her young son in Kensington. A light-colored SUV jumped a curb and hit the child, neighbors say, and someone inside the car allegedly tossed four bags of heroin out the vehicle just after it happened. And now the neighbors want to know why no one has been arrested. Read more »
Jack O’Neill kicked off his campaign for district attorney at the last possible minute. Literally.
The first time the 35-year-old Democrat was described as a candidate by the news media was when he submitted 1,776 signatures on his nominating petitions last Tuesday — the deadline for candidates to submit their paperwork to appear on the ballot. Before then, O’Neill hadn’t put out so much as a press release about his electoral ambitions.
Politicos were left scratching their heads: Who is this mystery man? And why would he jump into a race that already had six Democrats at each other’s throats?
“The reason I got in later than most people was because I was not going to run against Seth [Williams] in a campaign that seemed like it was going to be about trashing Seth for his personal problems,” says O’Neill. “I didn’t think it would help the city. I didn’t think it would help the D.A.’s office. I didn’t think it would help people’s confidence in law enforcement.”
O’Neill spoke with Philly Mag last week for nearly an hour. He talked about his experience prosecuting the “Kensington rapist,” his plan to expand the city’s crime-fighting Focused Deterrence program, and why he believes he is the most qualified person in the race to implement big reforms. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Read our Q&As with the other D.A. candidates in the May 16th election here. Read more »
Beth Grossman was a prosecutor for more than 20 years, serving in every unit in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office.
From 2007 to 2015, the Republican led the city’s public nuisance task force, where she shut down nuisance bars, cleaned up abandoned lots, and cracked down on out-of-state slumlords, she says. The task force also handled civil asset forfeiture, which enables district attorneys to seize people’s cash and homes even if they are not convicted of a crime. The system has come under fire nationwide from both liberals and conservatives in recent years; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said this month it “has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses.”
Grossman is proud of her time in charge of the city’s civil asset forfeiture program. She says she used the law to seize drug dealers’ homes and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. “A neighbor called to thank me for getting rid of a drug house next door to him. He told me that he could now sit on his porch again,” she says. “Enjoying the basic joys and comforts of one’s home without crime negatively affecting his or her safety and quality of life is something that everyone in Philadelphia should be able to do.” Read more »
“Philly Judge Criticized for Rape Decision.” “Judge Criticized for Considering Gang Rape on Prostitute ‘Theft of Services.’” “Judge Who Thinks Rape is ‘Theft of Services’ Up for Retention in Philly.”
Those are some of the headlines that pop up when you Google Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni’s name. Back in 2007, the Democrat dismissed sexual assault charges against a man who allegedly raped a prostitute at gunpoint, which drew ire from local women’s groups. She let robbery charges stand, telling the Philadelphia Daily News at the time, “She consented and she didn’t get paid. I thought it was a robbery.” Now, Deni says the media “misconstrued” the case, and that “the situation was corrected, and everyone was pleased with the result.” Read more »
Michael Untermeyer is complicated.
Back in 2009 and 2011, he ran for local office as a Republican. Today, he’s campaigning for district attorney as a Democrat. “The difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is the Democratic Party really wants government to serve people, which is why I am a Democrat,” he says. “The Republican Party doesn’t want to have government, period.”
Untermeyer’s platform includes a lot of things liberals like: The former prosecutor opposes the death penalty in most cases, vows to keep almost all drug users out of the criminal justice system, and wants cash bail to be abolished. But in this hyper-partisan era, the fact that Untermeyer once flew the GOP’s flag — and told Philly.com that “only a Democrat can win this office” — could turn off some Democratic voters. His past experience working in the civil asset forfeiture unit of the attorney general’s office may also prove a challenge in his quest to become district attorney. Read more »
Richard Negrin knows the trauma of gun violence firsthand. When he was just 13 years old, his father was shot dead in front of him. “It’s not fun to talk about, but I talk about it because it gives me credibility with young people,” he says. “I stand in front of classrooms and say, ‘How many of you have been touched by violence in your immediate family?’ In a first-grade class last year, 80 percent of those kids raised their hand.”
That life-changing experience, Negrin says, is why he became an assistant district attorney years ago, prosecuting hate crimes and other felony cases. He’s against a “heavy-handed, authoritarian” District Attorney’s office, he says, and wants a “community-based model that cares about all of us.” He points to Philly Rising, an initiative aimed at fighting poverty and crime that he led while working as the city’s managing director, as an example of that approach. Negrin, who once sat on the local ethics board, is also positioning himself as the good-government candidate in the district attorney’s race. The Democrat has sworn off gifts and campaign contributions from defense attorneys who may stand across from him the courtroom. Some positions he’s taken — or refused to take — may frustrate some progressives. For instance, he won’t say for now whether he wants a super PAC to back him or if cash bail should be abolished for low-level, nonviolent offenders. Read more »