For the second time, DeSantis suspends a state attorney, claims she has a ‘political agenda’

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis has again suspended a democratically elected state attorney, claiming her personal “political agenda” was interfering with her role prosecuting criminal cases for the state.

DeSantis announced State Attorney Monique Worrell’s suspension Wednesday at Florida’s Capitol while taking a rare step away from his presidential campaign. Worrell was the prosecutor for Orange and Osceola counties

In his announcement, DeSantis contended Worrell failed to pursue appropriate charges in serious criminal cases during her time as a state attorney.

“Prosecutors have a duty to faithfully enforce the law,” said DeSantis, flanked by Attorney General Ashley Moody and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass. “One’s political agenda cannot trump this solemn duty.” 

Hours after her suspension was announced, Worrell stepped outside her office in Orlando and said, “I am your duly elected state attorney, and nothing done by a weak dictator can change that.” She also said she would fight the suspension in court.

Gov. Ron DeSantis chuckles as Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd shows a meme to the cameras of State Attorney Monique Worrell, who DeSantis announced was suspended during a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023.

In February, DeSantis’ general counsel demanded Worrell turn over emails, reports and documents related to a 19-year-old man accused of killing three people in Orlando, including a television reporter. The governor had criticized Worrell’s earlier prosecutions of the suspect, Keith Moses, who had a record of arrests as a juvenile and was on probation when he allegedly went on a shooting spree.

The governor named Andrew Bain, an Orange County judge, to serve as state attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit in Worrell’s absence.

DeSantis, whose bid for the Republican presidential nomination has been faltering, took no questions after his announcement. Worrell’s suspension comes a day after DeSantis’ latest overhaul of his problem-plagued presidential campaign. On Tuesday, he replaced his campaign manager, Generra Peck, with his governor’s office chief of staff, James Uthmeier, as he continues to trail far behind the Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump.

Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a press conference to announce the suspension of State Attorney Monique Worrell on Aug. 9, 2023.

What did DeSantis say about Monique Worrell?

On Wednesday, DeSantis detailed a series of cases over the past two years in which suspects accused of gun crimes, drug trafficking and other offenses received reduced sentences or had charges lessened or dismissed in Worrell’s circuit.

DeSantis said his suspension of Worrell is an attempt to bring prosecutions in Democratic-leaning Orange and Osceola counties into compliance with state law.

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

In April, Worrell accused DeSantis of pursuing a “witch hunt to establish a basis for the removal of another duly elected prosecutor” after she learned that a Central Florida Republican Party official was seeking prosecution data from her office in cases of human trafficking. 

Monique Worrell

Last year DeSantis suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren

Last year, DeSantis removed State Attorney Andrew Warren, a twice-elected Democrat in Tampa, after he signed pledges saying he would not push for criminal charges against seekers or providers of abortion or gender-affirming health care, along with policies that diminish the prospect of charges for certain low-level crimes. 

Warren fought back with a federal lawsuit in September, challenging his removal from office. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in January ruled the suspension violated the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Hinkle, however, said he lacked the authority to reinstate the prosecutor. 

Warren called Wednesday’s action by DeSantis “another illegal and unconstitutional attack on democracy by a small, scared man who is desperate to save his political career.” 

Who is Florida State Attorney Monique Worrell?

Worrell had been under fire from Central Florida law enforcement and caught DeSantis’ eye for declining to bring more serious charges in several high-profile shootings and other violent crimes. 

Worrell was elected with 67% of the vote in 2020 in Orange and Osceola counties. Worrell, who is Black, succeeded Aramis Ayala, who had been the first Black state attorney ever elected in Florida. 

Ayala clashed with DeSantis’ predecessor, Gov. Rick Scott, over her refusal to seek the death penalty in capital cases, prompting Scott to reassign more than two dozen cases. Ayala, also a Democrat, last year unsuccessfully challenged Moody, the Republican attorney general, who stood by DeSantis on Wednesday and made a case against Worrell.

Moody said Worrell dismissed more than 16,000 charges against defendants over the past year, more than any other Florida state attorney. She said the dismissals stand out and were four times the number of dismissals in Palm Beach County, where another Democrat, Dave Aronberg, serves. 

“Officers may arrest you; they risk your lives arresting you. But if you’re in the 9th Circuit, nearly half the time, the state attorney will not follow through,” Moody said. “That is incredibly dangerous to people in the 9th Circuit.” 

On Worrell’s office website, the state attorney outlines the goals of the independently elected office.

“While engaging in the day-to-day prosecutorial function, we likewise seek to reform and improve the criminal justice system by measuring success in the courtroom and the community,” the site says.

Who is Andrew Bain, Worrell’s replacement?

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd accompanied DeSantis at the Capitol Wednesday and praised the governor’s selection of Andrew Bain to replace Worrell.

Bain, who is also Black, has been a judge on the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida since 2020, when he was appointed by DeSantis. He won reelection in 2022.

From 2013 to 2020, Bain was an assistant state attorney, his LinkedIn profile says. He is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, the Orlando Sentinel reported.


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