Philadelphia district attorney candidate Michael Untermeyer has come out early with a plan for criminal justice changes targeting several activities of the office that have drawn criticism.
His plan calls for an independent unit in the DA’s office to deal with police misconduct; a greater effort within the office to review convictions called into serious question; and constraints on the controversial asset forfeiture program.
In an interview, Untermeyer cited the case of Eleanor Young, a West Philadelphia woman whose house and car were seized after her son who lived there was arrested on charges of selling drugs.
“It’s simply unfair for this woman who’s 70-something years old to lose her home when she’s had no involvement with narcotics violations,” Untermeyer said.
Young is fighting the seizure, and the case is now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. District attorney spokesman Cameron Kline said the office couldn’t comment on the matter.
Untermeyer’s plan calls for a “meaningful review” in cases where an individual loses assets without a criminal conviction.
Untermeyer also said the office should change the way it handles minor drug convictions. He cited a program in Seattle that sends many of those defendants directly to rehab in lieu of criminal charges.
Untermeyer is one of six announced candidates for the Democratic primary.
The filing deadline to enter the race is Tuesday. The primary is May 16.
Listen to my full interview with Michael Untermeyer.