DeSantis suspends Tampa prosecutor who took a stance against criminalizing abortion providers

In his executive order, DeSantis charged Warren with “negligence of duty” and “incompetence” as the Hillsborough County state’s attorney.

“To take a position that you have a veto over state laws is untenable,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Tampa surrounded by law enforcement.

Warren responded hours later, accusing DeSantis of “trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County.”

At a previously scheduled press conference, where he unveiled two suspects in a pair of 40-year-old cold-blooded murders, Warren said defiantly, “I’m still the duly elected Hillsborough County District Attorney.”
“If the governor thinks he can do a better job, then he should run for prosecutor or not president,” Warren said, referring to reports that DeSantis is widely considered a candidate for the GOP nomination in 2024.
Warren hasn’t said if he intends to take legal action to overturn the suspension, nor is it clear what would happen if he tried to continue working as a prosecutor. ‘State. Earlier Thursday, the Florida 13th Judicial Circuit State’s Attorney’s Office website was placed in “maintenance mode.” By evening, it was back online and featured the person DeSantis named to replace Warren, Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Susan Lopez.

The decision by DeSantis, a Republican, to impeach a Democrat twice elected by Hillsborough voters drew an immediate and severe rebuke from lawmakers and state Democratic officials. Minority Leader Sen. Lauren Book said DeSantis “behaved more like a dictator than an ‘American governor’.” to exercise its prosecutorial discretion.”

“Ron DeSantis is a pathetic bully,” Fried said.

DeSantis said the decision to suspend Warren came after he asked staff to check whether any state prosecutors in Florida had taken “it upon themselves to figure out the laws that they like and will enforce,” after seeing prosecutors in other states refuse to press charges for certain crimes. . This review led them to Warren, who became a strong advocate for criminal justice reform and overturning wrongful convictions.

“The governor shouldn’t have come to Hillsborough County and cleaned up our mess,” former Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said at the press conference. “That’s really what it’s all about.”

Under Florida law, a governor can remove “any county officer” for embezzlement, mischief, dereliction of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony. The Florida Senate has the power to reinstate a suspended official or remove that person from office.

“It’s not a dereliction of duty,” Warren told CNN’s Laura Coates Thursday night. “Actually, it’s not even about things I did in the office. It’s about things I might do in the future…I mean, it’s like thought police Orwellian of 1984.”

Warren maintained that he has always used his prosecutorial discretion to review charges on a case-by-case basis.

DeSantis appointed Lopez to serve as district attorney during Warren’s suspension. He previously appointed Lopez as a Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge. DeSantis told reporters he did not speak to Warren prior to the announcement.

Warren was first elected to state attorney in 2016, beating a longtime Republican in a narrow race that predicted Florida County’s left turn. He won re-election in 2020, winning a higher percentage of votes in Hillsborough County than President Joe Biden.

During his first years in office, Warren kept a relatively low profile as he quietly modernized the office and enacted criminal justice reforms. In 2018, he supported the county’s elected Republican Sheriff Chad Chronister’s re-election campaign and often held press conferences with law enforcement. In turn, Chronister praised Warren in the months leading up to the Democrats’ campaign for a second term.

But Chronister hosted Thursday’s press conference at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and delivered a scathing critique of Warren as he stood next to DeSantis. (Chronister’s wife, Nicole DeBartolo, and stepfather, Edward DeBartolo, a former NFL owner who secured a presidential pardon from Donald Trump, donated a combined $472,000 to the re-election campaign of DeSantis.)

Warren has become increasingly critical of DeSantis during the pandemic. At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, he publicly denounced the governor’s decision to allow mega-churches to operate in Florida just days after the arrest of a Tampa pastor who defiantly held an in-person service. . Later that summer, Warren announced he would not prosecute 67 people arrested during a protest over the death of George Floyd.

But it was Warren’s foray into the country’s political divide over transgender and abortion care that sparked DeSantis’ Thursday action. Last year, Warren joined dozens of local and state prosecutors who signed a letter written by the progressive organization Fair and Just Prosecution decrying laws that criminalize doctors who provide gender-affirming care to people. transgender. After the United States Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate constitutional protections for abortion, Warren signed another letter from Fair and Justice pledging discretion not to use the “limited resources of the criminal legal system” to prosecute those who seek, provide or support the abortions.

The abortion stance put Warren at odds with a new state law that bans abortion in Florida after 15 weeks. DeSantis, who last year signed a ban on transgender girls and women participating in school sports as women, has also taken steps to ban gender-affirming care for children, which he called Thursday “literally cut off the private parts of young children”.

“It’s really, I think, egregious and again, it’s beyond the exercise of discretion,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis has used his power to impeach some elected officials more than his predecessors. In one of his first actions as governor, DeSantis suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who oversaw the police response to the deadly mass shooting at a Parkland high school.

But past suspensions were the result of actions already taken by elected officials. Warren’s suspension is partly due to actions that have yet to be taken. Notably, the state’s new abortion law is facing a legal challenge and a judge said it violated the state constitution, though a higher court said otherwise.

Warren said he hadn’t read DeSantis’ executive order, but said he “heard it contained a lot of speculation and lies.”

“Just based on the governor’s track record with unconstitutional orders,” Warren said, “I have a feeling it’s going to be equally unconstitutional.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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