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June 14, 2024

Newly appointed special prosecutor will handle crimes on SEPTA

Michael Untermeyer will assume the position, which District Attorney Larry Krasner sought to block.

Courts Prosecution
SEPTA prosecutor Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The special prosecutor role for SEPTA crimes was created under Act 40.

A new special prosecutor will focus on crimes aboard SEPTA vehicles and stations after a court ruling Friday cleared the way for their appointment.

Attorney General Michelle Henry announced that Michael Untermeyer, an attorney currently in private practice, assume the role. Untermeyer has 15 years of prosecutorial experience, with long stints at the attorney general's and Philadelphia district attorney's offices.

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His role was created under Act 40, a law empowering the Pennsylvania attorney general to select a prosecutor to "investigate and institute criminal proceedings" for crimes in the SEPTA transit system. DA Larry Krasner sought to block this appointment, alleging in a lawsuit that Act 40 was unconstitutional. But the Commonwealth Court ruled against him, allowing Untermeyer's appointment to proceed.

In a statement, Krasner called the decision "deeply disappointing" and vowed to appeal the ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

"As violent crime continues to drop nationwide and even more so in Philly, according to recent data, we continue to believe that this matter is fundamentally an attack on democracy and on Philadelphia voters, not about public safety," he said. "Make no mistake: Act 40, an unconstitutional and arbitrary law, is a grave danger to the power Philadelphia voters wield, an orchestrated power play by certain officials in Harrisburg to disenfranchise Philadelphians."

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Krasner claimed that those who supported Act 40 did so for political reasons rather than public safety. 

“If they cared about public safety here, then they would be letting us do some things with gun regulation,” he said. “If they cared about public safety here, they would fund our public schools. If they cared about public safety here, we wouldn’t have to beg them to fund SEPTA properly.”

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