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Andrew Warren calls the suspension of Orlando state attorney a 'dark day' in Florida

A man and woman walk together.
Grayson Kamm
/
Courtesy
Andrew Warren walks into a federal appeals court with his wife Alex Warren and members of his legal team on May 2, 2023.

Democratic Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, who was suspended by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, called the suspension Wednesday of an Orlando-area state attorney a "dark day for democracy in the Sunshine State."

Warren's comments followed a news conference in Tallahassee in which DeSantis announced his decision to remove Monique Worrell, elected to the 9th Judicial Circuit in 2020, from office.

DeSantis said the decision stems from an investigation into Worrell's actions following the fatal shooting of Spectrum News 13 reporter Dylan Lyons, along with a woman and 9-year-old girl.

In a letter to Worrell, DeSantis' general counsel wrote she failed to hold accused shooter Keith Moses accountable despite his criminal record and gang affiliation. The governor's office sought Moses' juvenile records, which are usually protected.

"It doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. Anyone who cares about the rule of law, and our commitment to democracy in this state, should be extremely frightened by what's happened now."
Andrew Warren

As was the case when he was suspended, Warren said DeSantis' actions were politically motivated.

"It doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent," Warren said during a media call on Wednesday. "Anyone who cares about the rule of law, and our commitment to democracy in this state, should be extremely frightened by what's happened now.

"This is going to have a chilling effect on Floridians exercising their rights under our state and federal Constitution. That is bad for Florida. That's bad for our democracy, and it's entirely un-American."

Monique Worrell speaks during the NAACP 5114 Marion County Branch 41st Freedom Fund and Awards Banquet at the Klein Conference Center at the College of Central Florida in Ocala. on April 28, 2023.
Bruce Ackerman
/
Ocala Gazette
Monique Worrell speaks during the NAACP 5114 Marion County Branch 41st Freedom Fund and Awards Banquet at the Klein Conference Center at the College of Central Florida in Ocala. on April 28, 2023.

DeSantis suspended Warren last August, citing Warren's previous comments that he would not enforce any current or potential state laws regarding abortion or transgender health care.

Warren asked to have the suspension reversed in a lawsuit, but U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle dismissed it.

READ MORE: Suspended state attorney who refused to prosecute abortion cases won't be reinstated, court rules

Hinkle said DeSantis was wrong when he claimed that Warren had blanket policies not to prosecute certain cases when he suspended him. But, according to the U.S. Constitution, his court could not reinstate Warren, citing federal law prevents him from returning Warren to office.

Warren said the decision was made amid what he called DeSantis' "floundering" run for president.

"A court found that (DeSantis) suspended me illegally in violation of the federal and state constitution, for politics and for publicity," Warren said. "And it appears that that's what's happening here again, because of his presidential campaign is floundering.

"The judge found that the governor's motivations were political and for publicity. And it appears that that's the same thing that's happening here. The judge in our case threw out the reasons that the governor had put forward, said that the suspension for questions about how prosecutors are doing their job and how they're exercising their discretion are a violation of state law. And obviously, anything that is retaliating against a prosecutor, or anyone else, for speaking — publicly — expressing their First Amendment right, on issues of public importance is a violation of the First Amendment."

Warren's case is currently pending a ruling from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF 89.7.

Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.
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