DeSantis suspends Hillsborough County state attorney for ‘neglect of duty’
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced he’s suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County effective immediately because of his “neglect of duty.”
According to a newly issued executive order, DeSantis said Warren has refused of prosecute "abortion crimes" related to several state laws which protect "the lives of unborn children."
"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," DeSantis said Thursday during a news conference at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
WATCH: Gov. Ron DeSantis suspends Hillsborough County state attorney
The governor accused Warren of recently signing a letter, saying he wouldn't enforce any state laws "relating to protecting the right to life in the state of Florida."
One of the most contentious of those laws is a newly passed measure which bans abortions in the Sunshine State after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
"We've had prohibition on third trimester abortions for a long time. We've had prohibitions on partial birth abortions for a long time," DeSantis said. "That is what the Legislature has enacted, and it's not for him to put himself above that and say he's not going to enforce the laws."
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday afternoon, Warren said he's "shocked at the blatant violation of one of the most fundamental principals of our democracy, that the people, the voters get to elect elected officials."
"If the governor thinks he can do a better job, then he should run for state attorney, not president," Warren said.
Warren added the governor's executive order contains "a lot of conjecture and lies" and is likely unconstitutional. He went onto say that Florida's 15-week abortion ban is unconstitutional.
"The governor is trying to overthrow the results of a fair and free election," Warren said. "This isn't the governor trying to suspend one elected official. This is the governor trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County."
WATCH: State Attorney Andrew Warren addresses suspension
DeSantis added that Warren signed a letter in June 2021 saying he "would not enforce any prohibitions on sex change operations for minors."
"That's a debate that we're having, mostly administratively and through medical licensing in Florida," DeSantis said. "He said it doesn't matter what the Legislature does in the state of Florida. He's gonna exercise a veto over that."
Warren took office in January 2017. He's being replaced by Susan Lopez, a judge on the Hillsborough County court.
"I have the utmost respect for our state laws and I understand the important role that the state attorney plays in ensuring the safety of our community and the enforcement of our laws," Lopez said. "I want to thank the governor for placing his trust in me, and I promise that I will faithfully execute the duties of this office."
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for complete strangers and are resolved to "apprehend the criminals who prey on law-abiding citizens in our community."
Chronister said they trust that the criminal justice system will hold those guilty accountable.
"The governor's suspension of State Attorney Andrew Warren is not political to me," Chronister said. "It's about law and order. It's about ensuring our loved ones are safe. It's about the victims and their voices."
Over the last several years, Chronister said Warren has acted like a "supreme authority by reducing charges, dropping cases, and single handedly determining what crimes will be legal or illegal in our county."
Warren issued the following statement Thursday after the governor announced his suspension:
"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.
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 again he feels accountable to no one.
Just because the governor violates your rights, it doesn't mean they don't exist."
Democratic gubernatorial candidates Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist both responded to Warren's removal.
Fried called it a "politically motivated attack on a universally respected State Attorney democratically elected to exercise prosecutorial discretion. Ron DeSantis is a pathetic bully. He’s doing this because he wants to be dictator, not a governor of Florida."
Crist added that the "action by Gov. 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."
Earlier on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the governor teased on Twitter that a "MAJOR announcement" would result in "the liberal media meltdown of the year."
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