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

DeSantis also accused Warren of failing to prosecute criminals to the full extent of his powers as Hillsborough County prosecutor.

“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.

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 “behaves more like a dictator than an ‘American governor’.” to exercise prosecutorial discretion.”

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

Warren called DeSantis’ action an “illegal overreach that perpetuates a dangerous Ron DeSantis pattern of using his office to pursue his own political ambition.” DeSantis is running for re-election in November and plans to run for president in 2024.

“In our community, crime is low, our constitutional rights – including the right to privacy – are respected, and the people have the right to elect their own leaders – not have them dictated to them by an aspiring candidate. in the presidency who has shown time and time again, he does not feel accountable to anyone,” Warren said in a statement.

Warren is due to hold a press conference at 4 p.m. ET to discuss a development in a 40-year-old cold case.

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 which laws 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.

DeSantis appointed Susan Lopez as prosecutor 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 endorsed 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 stance on abortion put Warren at odds with a new state law which prohibits 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.

“It spits in the face of Hillsborough County voters who twice elected me to serve them, not Ron DeSantis,” Warren said.

Leave a Comment