TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa Bay area state attorney is bracing for budget cuts and says he fears he might not have the resources to prosecute certain crimes if they go through.
Over the next few weeks, state lawmakers will make all sorts of decisions about funding. State Attorney Andrew Warren of the 13th Judicial Circuit warns that cuts to the courts should be off the table.
Mike Franck was killed in a shooting in South Tampa close to four years ago. Prosecutors say Mike was 100% innocent – a bystander who lunged in front of the bullets to protect others. There was a trial and conviction in the case but, right now, there’s still no sentencing.
A COVID-19 backlog in the courts has delayed justice for Mike’s sister, Sybille Naude, and countless other families.
“When you get these letters and this case is pending and pending,” Naude said, “it kind of opens the wound over and over and over again.”
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi asked the state attorney how big of a challenge this has been.
“It’s one that we’ve been working through every day,” Warren said.
Warren has roughly a $30 million budget. The state told him to brace for a 10% cut. Warren says that would mean one out of every 10 positions would have to be eliminated.
There are concerns that wouldn’t just delay justice, it would impact public safety.
“So that means fewer prosecutors to hold criminals accountable,” he explained. “It means that we have to start identifying the types of cases that we can’t prosecute as quickly, or prosecute at all.”
“Would you not go after property crime as aggressively?” Saeidi asked.
“We haven’t identified the specific areas where we couldn’t go after those cases as we always do,” Warren answered.
As state lawmakers get ready to deal with the budget wreckage left by the virus, Warren believes, in his office, there’s no more fat to cut.
“For the past four years, we’ve actually worked to reduce the budget deficit I inherited,” Warren said.
He’s hoping lawmakers reconsider, for Franck’s family – and yours.
“My brother died a hero, which he was my hero living, so it makes me kind of feel better that these girls’ lives got saved,” Naude said.
8 On Your Side will be closely watching to see what lawmakers do and how prosecutors handle it.