DeSantis suspends Florida prosecutor for suggesting he won’t enforce restrictions on abortion, gender therapy

MIAMI — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday suspended Tampa County’s top prosecutor after the Democrat publicly said he would not enforce a new state abortion restriction or potential law banning abortions. surgeries for transgender children.

Flanked by state and area law enforcement officials who are fellow Republicans, DeSantis said at his press conference that Hillsborough County State’s Attorney Andrew Warren was neglecting his official duties and essentially usurps a governor’s right of veto by signaling his refusal to prosecute those who break laws with which he disagrees.

“When you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you place yourself above the law, you have violated your duty,” DeSantis said. “You have neglected your duty and show a lack of competence to be able to perform these tasks.”

Warren, who became a in the face of progressive criminal justice reform after first winning office in 2016 and considering running for Florida attorney general in 2022, he could not immediately be reached for comment.

Warren plans to continue to hold a press conference later Thursday regarding what his office calls a “major development” in the exoneration case of Robert DuBoise, who was released from prison in 2020, 37 years after his wrongful conviction for murder.

An adviser to Warren who was not authorized to speak publicly on his behalf said Warren was blindsided by DeSantis’ announcement and by area law enforcement officials who called him soft on the crime as he stood next to the governor during the press conference in Tampa.

Describing the suspension as “political, another notch in Ron’s belt as he positions himself to run for president,” his adviser said Warren justified standing up to Florida. new abortion law DeSantis signed on because he violates the law: A state constitutional privacy provision that the state Supreme Court previously ruled protected abortion rights. The new law is being challenged in court.

The high-level political dynamics were telegraphed a day earlier by DeSantis publicist Christina Pushaw, who teased the upcoming announcement on social media. The governor’s office also issued a statement to conservative media calling Warren a “Soros-backed” prosecutor, a reference to progressive financier George Soros, whom Warren acknowledged in 2020 may have helped his first successful election campaign. four years ago.

Warren was elected with more than 53% of the vote, or 370,000 ballots, in 2020 in Hillsborough County. A Democratic stronghold, Hillsborough has a Republican sheriff, Chad Chronister, who joined other colleagues in trashing Warren at the DeSantis press conference.

Suspension is another continuation of DeSantis muscle power exercise, which Democrats and other critics regularly call dictatorial. More popular among Florida Republicans than former President Donald Trump, DeSantis has encountered little resistance from the GOP-led Legislature, although his office has a relatively stance. bad criminal record defending the laws he signed.

Florida’s Constitution gives a governor the right to suspend state officials for “mischief, embezzlement, dereliction of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony” .

DeSantis’ order, however, did not cite specific instances where Warren refused to do his job. Instead, DeSantis’ order said Warren’s “categorical refusal” to enforce Florida’s new abortion restrictions or potential restrictions regarding issues with surgeries or bathroom use for transgender people was against the state constitution.

Under state law, the Florida Senate can decide to remove Warren from office for the remainder of his term. The chamber is controlled by the same Republicans who passed the abortion law that Warren said he opposed.

DeSantis cited two letters signed by Warren with other prosecutors across the country: One June 24, 2022, joint declaration in favor of the right to abortion and a June 2021 letter condemning efforts in a number of states to restrict access to gender-affirming health care for transgender people.

Before the United States Supreme Court struck down federal protections for the right to abortion, DeSantis signed new legislation limiting abortions in Florida to 15 weeks, whether the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. The law is being challenged in court. The DeSantis administration is using executive action to ban transgender therapies for minors and Medicaid recipients. State lawmakers are expected to address the issue in the next legislative session this spring.

Another Florida state attorney, Orlando-area attorney Monique H. Worrell, joined Warren in signing the letter supporting access to gender-affirming care, but she didn’t not signed the joint declaration on abortion. A spokesperson for DeSantis said Worrell is not on hold at this time because proposed restrictions on surgeries for transgender children are not yet a matter of state law that she would flout.

Shortly after taking office in 2019, DeSantis served his first suspension by temporarily removing Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from office for his office’s handling of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland that left 17 dead and 17 injured. Israel was subsequently removed from office by the Florida Senate.

DeSantis’ predecessor as governor, current Sen. Rick Scott, refused to suspend Israel. Scott also had a different reaction to the handling of a different Orlando-area prosecutor, Aramis Ayala, when she refused to pursue death penalty cases, including one against an accused cop killer: Scott simply assigned these cases to other prosecutors instead of suspending it. Ayala is now a candidate for Attorney General.

DeSantis faces re-election this year. Polls show him leading his top potential Democratic challengers, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Rep. Charlie Crist, who face off in a primary on Aug. 23.

Both Crist and Fried have made abortion rights a major issue in the primaries and have issued statements indicating that Warren’s fate is now also a campaign issue.

“He’s doing this because he wants to be a dictator, not governor of Florida. That’s not how it works, however. It will backfire on us,” Fried said in a written statement, referring to Tuesday’s vote in Kansas to protect abortion rights. “We just saw him in Kansas. Florida is a pro-choice, pro-democracy state. If it holds, Florida residents will end it in November.

CORRECTION (August 4, 2:32 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article was incorrect when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the state’s abortion law. This was before the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, not after.

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