DeSantis suspends state attorney who spoke against abortion law

Ron DeSantis, left, and Andrew Warren. (CNN)

(CNN) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday suspended state attorney Andrew Warren for pledging not to use his office to prosecute people who seek or provide abortions or doctors who provide gender-affirming care.

Ron DeSantis, left, and Andrew Warren. (CNN) 

In his executive order, DeSantis accused Warren of “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” as the elected state attorney of Hillsborough County, which includes the city of Tampa.

“To take a position that you have veto powers over the laws of the state is untenable,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Tampa surrounded by law enforcement officers.

Warren responded hours later, accusing DeSantis of “trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County.”

In a public statement, he said, “In our community, crime is low, our constitutional rights – including the right to privacy – are being upheld, and the people have the right to elect their own leaders — not have them dictated by an aspiring presidential candidate who has shown time and time again he feels accountable to no one.”

Warren did not say if he intends to pursue legal action to void the suspension, nor is it clear what happens if he attempts to continue working as the state attorney. Earlier Thursday, the website for the Office of the State Attorney 13th Judicial Circuit of Florida was placed in “maintenance mode.” By evening, it was back online and featured DeSantis’ appointee to replace Warren, Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Susan Lopez.

DeSantis told reporters that he did not speak to Warren ahead of the announcement.

The move by DeSantis, a Republican, to remove a Democrat twice elected by Hillsborough voters drew an immediate and sharp rebuke from Democratic state lawmakers and officials. Minority Leader Sen. Lauren Book said DeSantis was “behaving more like a dictator than ‘America’s governor.’” And Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic candidate for governor, called Warren’s suspension “a politically motivated attack on a universally respected state attorney democratically elected to exercise prosecutorial discretion.”

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“Ron DeSantis is a pathetic bully,” Fried said.

DeSantis said the decision to suspend Warren came after he directed staff to review whether any state attorneys in Florida had taken it “upon themselves to determine which laws they like and will enforce,” after watching prosecutors in other states decline to press charges for certain crimes. That review led them to Warren, who has become a vocal advocate for criminal justice reform and overturning wrongful convictions.

“The governor should not have had to come to Hillsborough County and clean up our mess,” former Tampa police chief Brian Dugan said during the press conference. “That’s really what it comes down to.”

Under Florida law, a governor can remove “any county officer” for malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony. The Florida Senate has the power to reinstate a suspended official or remove that person from office.

“It’s not a dereliction of duty,” Warren told CNN’s Laura Coates on Thursday evening. “In fact, it’s not even talking about things that I’ve done in the office. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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