TAMPA – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday morning announced the surprise suspension of Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren for not prosecuting certain crimes.
It comes after Warren joined dozens of prosecutors nationwide in June and pledged to not press charges against people who seek, facilitate, or provide abortion care following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Gov. DeSantis said Warren has neglected his duty.
“When you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty. You have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties and so today, we are suspending state Attorney Andrew Warren effective immediately,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said there has been building frustration on the part of some law enforcement in Hillsborough County because accused criminals are being let go and alleged crimes are not being prosecuted.
“Andrew Warren is a fraud,” former Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan said.
The governor appointed Hillsborough County judge Susan Lopez to serve as State Attorney for the period of suspension, which he hopes will end with Warren’s permanent removal.
“It is my promise to the people of Hillsborough County that I will faithfully execute the duties of this office and to ensure that we are fulfilling its purpose to prosecute crimes and protect the people of Hillsborough County,” Lopez said.
Warren, a Democrat and former federal fraud prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice, responded to the suspension and allegations by DeSantis in a tweet, saying in part:
“Today’s political stunt is an illegal overreach that continues a dangerous pattern by Ron DeSantis of using his office to further his own political ambition. It spits in the face of the voters of Hillsborough County who have twice elected me to serve *them*, not Ron DeSantis,” Warren wrote. “Just because the governor violates your rights, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
In our community, crime is low, our Constitutional rights—including the right to privacy—are being upheld & the people have the right to elect their own leaders—not have them dictated by an aspiring presidential candidate who has shown time & again he feels accountable to no one.— Andrew Warren (@AndrewWarrenFL) August 4, 2022
DeSantis said he did not speak with Warren about his concerns before suspending him.
According to a report from the Tampa Bay Times, Warren was escorted out of his office Thursday morning and forced to cancel a media event about a development related to the case of Robert DuBoise, who was exonerated in 2020 after serving 37 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
In a news release, DeSantis said he has the authority under the Florida Constitution to suspend state officials for reasons of misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony.
“Governor DeSantis’ suspension of State Attorney Andrew Warren is an unprecedented and dangerous intrusion on the separation of powers and the will of the voters. Since our country’s founding, the independence of the prosecutor – and the autonomy to decide whom and what to charge with inherently limited resources – has been a hallmark of the American criminal legal system.
Governors don’t hand-pick elected prosecutors, the voters do. With this outrageous overreach, Gov. DeSantis is sending a clear message that the will of the people of Hillsborough County matters less than his own political agenda.”
Fair and Just Prosecution is the group that organized the pledge signed by Warren and a large group of prosecutors across the country.
“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion. But we stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions,” the pledge states.