DeSantis suspends Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren – Yahoo News

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren for not prosecuting certain crimes.

At a news conference flanked by police from around Tampa Bay, DeSantis said Warren has “put himself publicly above the law” by signing letters saying he would not enforce laws prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors or laws limiting abortion.

“Our government is a government of laws, not a government of men,” DeSantis said.

READ THE GOVERNOR’S ORDER HERE

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said police have had long-running frustrations with Warren for not prosecuting particular cases.

“I continue to work with my law enforcement counterparts who privately are frustrated with the state attorney, who seems intently focused on empathy for criminals and less interested in pursuing justice for crime victims,” Chronister said Thursday.

Thursday’s press conference included neighboring other police chiefs, including Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, and Attorney General Ashley Moody.

“Andrew Warren is a fraud,” former Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan said. “This is a terrible day, that the governor had to come and clean up our mess.”

Warren, a Democrat, has been a frequent critic of DeSantis, including calling the governor’s 2021 “anti-riot” legislation a misguided “solution in search of a problem.”

On Thursday morning, Warren was escorted out of his office. He was set to host a news conference about a “major development” related to the case of Robert DuBoise, who was exonerated in 2020 after serving 37 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. After DeSantis’ suspension, Warren’s office canceled the event.

Warren can appeal DeSantis’ decision.

Under the state constitution, a governor can suspend state officials for misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties or commission of a felony.

DeSantis’ order cites neglect of duty and incompetence as the reason for Warren’s suspension, citing, in part, 1937 case law in which a Tampa prosecutor was accused of not charging people for gambling offenses.

Warren, the order states, “demonstrated his incompetence and willful defiance of his duties,” citing:

  • Warren signing on to a June 2021 “joint statement” with prosecutors around the country “to use our discretion and not promote the criminalization of gender- affirming healthcare or transgender people.” Although the state has not enacted such criminal laws, “these statements prove that Warren thinks he has authority to defy the Florida Legislature,” DeSantis wrote.

  • Warren enacting a policy not to prosecute “certain criminal violations, including trespassing at a business location, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication, and prostitution.”

  • Warren enacting a policy “against prosecuting crimes where the initial encounter between law enforcement and the defendant results from a non-criminal violation in connection with riding a bicycle or a pedestrian violation.”

“Warren has effectively nullified these Florida criminal laws in the 13th Judicial Circuit, thereby eroding the rule of law, encouraging lawlessness, and usurping the exclusive role of the Florida Legislature to define criminal conduct,” the order states.

As Warren’s replacement, DeSantis appointed Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez, a former county prosecutor whom DeSantis named to the bench last year.

DeSantis said he did not speak with Warren about his concerns before suspending him.

The governor’s decision was a stunning override of the the 369,129 Hillsborough County voters who cast their ballot for Warren in 2020, which made up 53.4 percent of turnout.

It also had echoes of a 2016 clash between former Gov. Rick Scott and Aramis Ayala, the state’s first Black state attorney, representing Orange and Osceola counties.

Ayala stunned many supporters and made national news when, just two months into office, she announced she would not be seeking the death penalty in any cases, including in the case of Markeith Loyd, who was charged with killing police Lt. Debra Clayton and Loyd’s pregnant ex-girlfriend.

Scott reassigned that case and 28 others to a neighboring state attorney’s office, but did not suspend her. Ayala is now running for attorney general.

Before Thursday’s bombshell, DeSantis’ most high-profile suspension of an elected official was Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, after his department’s failures during the Parkland mass shooting.

After problems in Broward and Palm Beach during the 2018 elections such as failure to meet ballot counting deadlines, DeSantis also suspended Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. Technically, it was Gov. Rick Scott who suspended Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, though DeSantis only rescinded that so he could accept her letter of resignation.

In 2019, DeSantis also suspended the Superintendent of Okaloosa County Schools, citing grand jury reports that teachers were abusing special needs children at two schools in her district, and has suspended other local officials, including Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad, after they were charged with crimes.

Thursday’s news conference brought a jovial crowd, who laughed at Judd’s comments and stood to applaud DeSantis when he announced Warren’s suspension.

On Wednesday, DeSantis’ spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, warned on Twitter that there would be a “MAJOR announcement” by the governor Thursday morning.

“Prepare for the liberal media meltdown of the year,” she wrote.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Times/Herald staff writer Romy Ellenbogen contributed to this report.

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