TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s governor has suspended Hillsborough County’s state attorney, saying he refused to enforce laws he didn’t like.
Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Thursday suspending State Attorney Andrew Warren of the 13th Judicial Circuit “due to neglect of duty.”
Flanked by Florida’s top law enforcement officials, the governor announced the suspension during a press conference at Tampa’s Falkenburg Road Jail Thursday morning.
DeSantis said Warren refused to enforce the state’s laws around gender affirming surgeries for minors. The governor also took issue with Warren vowing not to prosecute women who get abortions or doctors who perform them after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“The Constitution of Florida has vested the veto power in the governor, not in state attorneys,” DeSantis said.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said Warren was soft on crime while prosecuting a violent offender with possible gang affiliation. The man shot someone in September, then in a separate incident, opened fire at the home where the victim sought protection. The victim’s family was forced to seek cover and hide, Chronister said.
Days later, the man was arrested, then released from jail. Days after that, he committed another burglary, according to Chronister.
The man was eventually arrested, then released from jail. Days later, he committed another burglary, Chronister said. This year, the same man was arrested twice for carrying a concealed firearm, according to Chronister.
Chronister claimed Warren declined to file charges in connection to the burglary and the original shooting.
When asked why he wasn’t held responsible for the original shooting, the state attorney’s office said “the depositions would have been to lengthy and complicated,” Chronister told reporters.
“The victim has lived in a hotel since the shooting because she is too afraid to return to her home,” the sheriff added.
Prosecutors in major cities are being accused of putting the public at risk with soft-on-crime policies. At Thursday’s press conference, DeSantis referenced San Francisco’s recall of Chesa Boudin, the city’s top prosecutor who was criticized for his progressive criminal justice policies.
“We are not going to allow this pathogen of ignoring the law get a foothold in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “We are going to make sure that our laws are enforced and that no individual prosecutors puts himself above the law. And I can tell you the states, and the localities that have allowed this to happen, they are ruing the day.”
During the news conference, Polk County Sheriff Judd took a moment to call out prosecutors in cities like New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco and Portland.
“When you look at the highest murder rates—if you look where the quality of life is lowest, look at the prosecutor who does not support law enforcement, who does not do what’s right,” Judd said.
“You want to know why some people are moving to Florida? Because their communities are no longer safe thanks to prosecutors that think they know better than the people’s representatives, and they get to pick and choose which laws they are enforcing,” the governor added.
The state’s Constitution gives DeSantis authority to suspend officials for reasons of misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony.
The governor said he’s appointed current Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez to serve as the acting state attorney.
DeSantis’ decision prompted a wave of reactions from Democratic lawmakers, advocates and other critics.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, the Democratic frontrunner for governor of Florida, slammed DeSantis for punishing Warren for “failing to fall in line” with his “culture wars.”
“The people of Hillsborough elected Andrew Warren not once, but twice, because of his commitment to safety and justice for all people. This action by Governor DeSantis is that of a wannabe dictator who puts partisan politics first. He doesn’t give a damn about women or average Floridians. It’s a flagrant abuse of power,” Crist said. “If Governor DeSantis was truly worried about the people of Florida, he would focus on the affordability crisis that’s crushing our state and squeezing working families.”
“Ron DeSantis is so hellbent on banning abortion and throwing doctors in jail he’s willing to overturn the will of Florida voters and suspend a democratically elected state attorney. It’s fundamentally un-American and a clear demonstration of what extremes DeSantis will go to to infringe on Floridans’ freedoms,” said DNC representative Ammar Moussa.
“The governor’s actions constitute an extreme abuse of power — a new low for Governor DeSantis who fails our great state with his mean-spirited, selfish and fiscally-irresponsible focus on his political ambitions alone. Floridians should be up in arms over the DeSantis policy to turn girls, women and doctors into criminals for personal health decisions. We certainly are in Hillsborough County,” US Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) said in a statement.
“Andrew Warren has served our community with dignity and respect and to suspend him because he won’t criminalize a women’s right to choose in unconscionable. Shame on you Governor, may the women in this state speak out this November,” Democratic State Sen. Janet Cruz added.
News Channel 8 has reached out to Warren’s office for comment.