Florida Governor Suspends Another State Prosecutor – Who Just Happens to be a Democrat

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By The Vanguard

TALLAHASEE, FL – Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended yet another state prosecutor who just happens to be a Democrat, accusing the Orlando state attorney of incompetence and neglect of duty for what he characterized as lenience against violent criminals, according to a news report from the New York Times.

Monique H. Worrell, the elected state attorney of Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, which includes Orange and Osceola counties, was suspended for her handling of three cases, including one involving a man who shot and injured two Orlando police officers last weekend.

DeSantis, running for the GOP presidential nomination, has now suspended his second state prosecutor, a “drastic and exceedingly rare step,” said the Times. Both suspended prosecutors are Democrats.

“Mr. DeSantis was heavily criticized in August 2022 when he removed Andrew H. Warren, the top prosecutor in Tampa, who had signed a statement along with 90 other elected prosecutors across the country vowing not to prosecute people who seek or provide abortions. Critics, and even a federal judge, blasted Mr. DeSantis’s ouster of Mr. Warren as politically motivated. But Mr. Warren remains out of office — and Mr. DeSantis mentions his removal in just about every campaign stump speech,” wrote the NY Times.

On Wednesday, DeSantis said that Worrell’s office had “avoided seeking mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug trafficking crimes; allowed juveniles to avoid serious charges or incarceration; avoided seeking more serious sentences when they were available; limited charges for child pornography; and inappropriately allowed some offenders to avoid having a criminal conviction on their records,” according to the NY Times story. 

Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky said, “Gov. Ron DeSantis showed yet again his disdain for his own constituents and the foundation of our democracy by removing State Attorney Monique Worrell from office. This is a deeply disturbing abuse of power that overrules the will of voters and threatens the separation of powers that is foundational to the operation of the criminal legal system and the rule of law.”

Krinsky added, “While the governor wants you to believe his actions are predicated on promoting public safety, the truth is that he removed SA Worrell as a desperate political stunt. Indeed, as the discovery in Andrew Warren’s case revealed, he has been searching for a reason to remove her for well over a year. He decided he wanted her gone, and then went looking for a reason. The order in this case shows he never found one, but he removed her anyway.

“The people of Orange and Osceola counties elected SA Worrell based on her commitment to fairness and justice in the criminal legal system. During her time in office, she has created special victims and mental health units, developed a new diversion program to help reduce recidivism, and implemented policies to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. She also convened the first-ever violence prevention summit in her community, aimed at developing collaborative solutions to stop crime from happening before it occurred. 

“She has enacted changes to make her community safer and stronger – just as she promised to do. This is the very essence of fulfilling her responsibility to her community, not ‘neglect of duty,’ as the governor falsely claims. And if her community disapproves of the job she is doing, it is up to them to make that decision, and not up to the governor to override the will of the people.”

Added Krinsky, “The governor has now suspended two duly-elected prosecutors from office, demonstrating a pattern of complete disregard for Floridians’ right to local control and an eagerness to throw anyone who doesn’t agree with him under the bus just to score political points. 

“He cannot claim to be a champion for freedom while eviscerating the freedom of communities to choose their local leaders. These craven power grabs are an affront to democracy, and we are proud to stand with SA Worrell against this outrageous overreach.”

And, the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution’s Executive Director Rachel Marshall said, “The IIP strongly condemns Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s suspension of State Attorney Monique Worrell. Governor DeSantis’s action undermines the foundation of our legal system and flouts the will of the local community who overwhelmingly elected State Attorney Worrell.

“Communities elect prosecutors to be responsive to local priorities; prosecutors serve and are accountable to those same communities.  Florida Governor DeSantis’s removal of a locally-elected prosecutor and installation of his own, unelected replacement defies any purported commitment to democracy.”

Marshall added, “Gov. DeSantis’s action is only the latest in a national, coordinated strategy to target reform prosecutors—including the passage of SB 92 in Georgia, which allows for the removal of prosecutors based on their constitutionally protected use of discretion.

These organized attacks on prosecutorial discretion are a one-way ratchet: we have not seen efforts to undermine prosecutorial discretion when prosecutors seek overly harsh sentences, are responsible for egregious wrongful convictions, or decline to hold those in power accountable. Instead, is it only when prosecutors respond to their community demands for criminal justice reform that we see these bad faith restrictions on prosecutorial independence.”

“As these unprecedented attacks on prosecutorial independence continue, the IIP will continue to support the rights of prosecutors to make decisions that serve the communities that elected them,” noting DeSantis’ action “comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by four Georgia prosecutors challenging a new law that undermines the right to prosecutorial discretion.”

“Prosecutors do have a certain amount of discretion about which cases to bring and which not,” the governor said. “But what this state attorney has done is abuse that discretion and has effectively nullified certain laws in the state of Florida.”

Worrell, who was elected in 2020, was “known to be in Mr. DeSantis’s sights,” said the Times, noting DeSantis had “criticized her office earlier this year, and his general counsel sent her a letter seeking documents about previous arrests. Mr. DeSantis is a former federal and military prosecutor.”

Worrell released data in March showing that her prosecution rate was similar to that of her predecessors, and warned of the dangers of a governor pushing the boundaries of his executive power to remove law enforcement officials who belong to the opposing political party, wrote the Times.

“This could flip any day — we could get a Democratic governor who then decides to go around suspending all Republican prosecutors because we are not in alignment in ideology,” she said. “It has to stop. This is a dictatorship. This is not a democracy.” 

The Times said Worrell and Warren were among many prosecutors who have been “backed by groups supported by the liberal billionaire investor George Soros. Mr. DeSantis uses derisive mentions of Mr. Soros’s name to draw cheers as he campaigns for president.”

“We have stood for law and order in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said last week in Cedar Falls, Iowa. “And when we had a Soros-funded left-wing prosecutor in Tampa saying that he wasn’t going to enforce laws that he didn’t like, I removed him from his post.”

DeSantis did not discuss Soros Wednesday, but, reports the NY Times, “as with the removal of Mr. Warren, right-wing commentators online emphasized the Soros connection to Ms. Worrell, and members of Mr. DeSantis’s campaign amplified that message.”

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3 Comments

  1. Keith Olsen

    On Wednesday, DeSantis said that Worrell’s office had “avoided seeking mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug trafficking crimes; allowed juveniles to avoid serious charges or incarceration; avoided seeking more serious sentences when they were available; limited charges for child pornography; and inappropriately allowed some offenders to avoid having a criminal conviction on their records,” 

    The top statement cancels out the statement below:

    “She has enacted changes to make her community safer and stronger”

     

     

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