TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For the second time, Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended a Florida state attorney.
This time, it’s Monique Worrell of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, which covers Orange and Osceola counties. The governor said she’s gone easy on dangerous criminals.
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi took a look at the case against her.
The governor’s office claimed State Attorney Worrell failed to hold the shooter accountable despite his rap sheet, something Worrell disputes.
“I am today announcing the suspension of State Attorney Monique Worrell,” DeSantis announced on Wednesday, six months later, saying her policies put Orlando in danger.
In the executive order issued for her suspension, DeSantis accused Worrell of letting juveniles escape justice and avoiding mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug crimes.
“Prosecutors do have a certain amount of discretion,” said DeSantis. “But what this state attorney has done is abuse that discretion.”
Worrell says DeSantis is the one abusing his authority, and she’s proud of her policies.
It’s the second time this year the governor has removed an elected prosecutor. Both are Democrats.
“This country incarcerates more people than anywhere in the world,” Worrell said after her suspension on Wednesday. “And yet, crime still happens, so the ‘lock ’em up and throw away’ mentality cannot be the thing that works.”
“Most of my clients in the Ninth Circuit have benefitted from this progressive style of prosecution,” said Bryant Camareno, a defense attorney who has worked on many cases in Orlando.
Camareno says the governor is right that prosecutors are different in Orlando.
“They’ll listen, they’re not necessarily ‘oh, his record is bad, send him away,'” Camareno said.
The governor’s office shared a list of cases with 8 On Your Side that they say justifies her suspension. The list names offenders with priors who went on to commit more serious crimes.
“I look at this—that means nothing to me,” Camareno said when asked if the list raises questions about Worrell’s performance. “Were there uncooperative witnesses? Did the person cooperate against other cases? Is he a victim himself and he reacted in self-defense?”
The suspension comes as the governor tries to win the GOP presidential nomination. On Tuesday, he made his trusted, long-time chief of staff his new campaign manager.
“I think today was day one of the new campaign manager flexing the way that he did during the gubernatorial election but the 2022 gubernatorial election was an anomaly,” said political analyst Tara Newsom.