TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Andrew Warren, the twice-elected state attorney of the 13th Judicial Circuit, released a video message Sunday condemning Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to suspend him.
“Ron DeSantis is trying to overthrow democracy in Florida,” Warren said in his message. “His plot to suspend me blatantly violates the most fundamental basis of our democracy—your vote.”
DeSantis issued an executive order Thursday that suspended Warren, who served Hillsborough County, over “neglect of duty.”
The governor said that Warren published a letter where he refused to enforce prohibitions on gender affirming surgeries in Florida or prosecute women who get abortions or doctors who perform them after the decision to overturn Roe V. Wade.
“The Constitution of Florida has vested the veto power in the governor, not in individual state attorneys,” DeSantis said. “When you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty.”
Florida’s constitution allows the governor to suspend officials for misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister also said Warren was soft on crime, citing a case involving a suspect who was said to be involved in a shooting, multiple burglaries, and carrying a concealed firearm. The suspect was also said to have possible gang affiliation and could be involved in a homicide.
The sheriff said the suspect was not charged in the original shooting and one of the burglaries.
“Like too many cases, why was this violent offender not held responsible for this original shooting?” Chronister said. “The state attorney’s office explanation to our detective is the depositions would have been too lengthy and complicated.”
In his Sunday message, Warren said his office was committed to enforcing the law and protecting the community.
“We’ve aggressively prosecuted murderers, rapists, and any criminal who keeps parents like me awake at night” Warren said. “In our community, crime is low, rights are protected, and we’ve invested in safety.”
The state attorney also called his suspension a “political circus” by the governor.
“He came down to Tampa—to Hillsborough County—to illegally remove me as part of some political circus,” Warren said. “He did it because he wants to throw women and their doctors in jail based on a law that has already been found to violate Florida’s Constitution. He did it because he wants to enforce a law that discriminates against our LGBTQ community—a law that, at this point, doesn’t even exist. We won’t let him get away with it.”
Democratic lawmakers condemned Warren’s suspension as violating the will of voters and an abuse of power.
“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,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Florida.
The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also released a statement saying DeSantis exceeded his authority as governor.
“Each of the 20 elected state attorneys in Florida has wide discretion in choosing which cases to prosecute,” FACDL Chairman Ernie Chang said. “Under the governor’s flawed logic, each of them should be removed if there are legitimate cases they decide not to prosecute, which happens daily across the state through specialty courts such as drug court, mental health court, and veteran courts.”
DeSantis appointed Susan Lopez, whom he previously appointed to the Hillsborough County court as a judge, to serve as the state attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit in Warren’s place.
In a video released by the governor’s office Friday, Lopez said her office will put the law before politics or personal beliefs.
“The previous state attorney lost the confidence of law enforcement, and it is my goal to rebuild that confidence and keep our streets safe,” Lopez said.
As for Warren, he said would continue to fight his suspension. Details on his legal response will be released within the next several days, according to a statement.
“I’m a former federal prosecutor, the duly elected State Attorney, a native Floridian, and a proud American,” he said. “I refuse to let this man trample on your freedoms to speak your mind, to make your own health care decisions, and to have your vote count.”