For the second time, DeSantis suspends a state attorney, claims she has a 'political agenda'

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has again suspended a democratically elected state attorney, claiming her personal "political agenda" was interfering with her role prosecuting criminal cases for the state.

DeSantis announced State Attorney Monique Worrell's suspension Wednesday at Florida's capitol building, while taking a rare step away from his presidential campaign. Worrell was the elected prosecutor for Orange and Osceola counties

In his announcement, DeSantis contended Worrell failed to pursue appropriate charges in serious criminal cases during her time as a state attorney.

“Prosecutors have a duty to faithfully enforce the law,” said DeSantis, while flanked by Attorney General Ashley Moody and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass. “One’s political agenda cannot trump this solemn duty.” 

In February, DeSantis' general counsel demanded Worrell turn over emails, reports and documents related to a 19-year-old man accused of killing three people in Orlando, including a television reporter. The governor had criticized Worrell's earlier prosecutions of the suspect, Keith Moses, who had a record of arrests as a juvenile and was on probation when he allegedly went on a shooting spree.

The governor named Andrew Bain, an Orange County judge, to serve as state attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit in Worrell's absenceDeSantis, whose bid for the Republican presidential nomination has been faltering, took no questions following his announcement. Worrell's suspension comes a day after DeSantis' latest overhaul of his problem-plagued presidential campaign. On Tuesday, he replaced his campaign manager, Generra Peck, with his governor's office chief of staff, James Uthmeier, as he continues to trail far behind the Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump.

Last year DeSantis suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren

Last year, DeSantis removed State Attorney Andrew Warren, a twice elected Democrat in Tampa, after he signed pledges saying that he would not push for criminal charges against seekers or providers of abortion or gender-affirming health care, along with policies that diminish the prospect of charges for certain low-level crimes. 

Warren fought back with a federal lawsuit in September, challenging his removal from office. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in January ruled the suspension violated the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Hinkle, however, said he lacked the authority to reinstate the prosecutor. 

Worrell accused DeSantis in April of pursuing a "witch-hunt to establish a basis for the removal of another duly-elected prosecutor” after she learned that a Central Florida Republican Party official was seeking prosecution data from her office regarding human-trafficking cases. 

Who is Florida State Attorney Monique Worrell?

Worrell had been under fire from Central Florida law enforcement and caught DeSantis’ eye for declining to bring more serious charges in several high-profile shootings and other violent crimes. 

Worrell was elected with 67% of the vote in 2020 in Orange and Osceola counties. Worrell, who is Black, succeeded Aramis Ayala, who had been the first Black state attorney ever elected in Florida. 

Ayala clashed with DeSantis’ predecessor over her refusal to seek the death penalty in capital cases, prompting then-Gov. Rick Scott to reassign more than two dozen cases. Ayala, also a Democrat, last year unsuccessfully challenged Moody, the Republican attorney general, who Wednesday stood by DeSantis and made a case against Worrell.

Moody said Worrell dismissed more than 16,000 charges against defendants over the past year, more than any other Florida state attorney. She said the dismissals stand out, being four times the number of dismissals in Palm Beach County, where another Democrat, Dave Aronberg, serves. 

“Officers may arrest you, they risk your lives arresting you. But if you’re in the 9th Circuit, nearly half the time, the state attorney will not follow through,” Moody said. “That is incredibly dangerous to people in the 9th Circuit.” 

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