Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he was suspending Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren for not prosecuting certain crimes.
At a news conference in front of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies in Tampa, DeSantis said Warren has “put himself publicly above the law” by signing letters saying he would not enforce laws prohibiting sex changes for minors or laws limiting abortion.
“Our government is a government of laws, not a government of men,” DeSantis said.
#BREAKING: Gov. Ron DeSantis is suspending State Attorney Andrew Warren, a Democrat, for vowing to not enforce prohibitions on sex changes for minors or restrictions on abortion
"When you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty." pic.twitter.com/BegsmOXqWR
— Florida’s Voice (@FLVoiceNews) August 4, 2022
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said police have had long-running frustrations with Warren for not prosecuting particular cases.
“I continue to work with my law enforcement counterparts who privately are frustrated with the state attorney, who seems intently focused on empathy for criminals and less interested in pursuing justice for crime victims,” Chronister said Thursday.
Thursday’s press conference included other neighboring sheriffs and police chiefs, including Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, and Attorney General Ashley Moody.
“Andrew Warren is a fraud,” former Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan said. “This is a terrible day, that the governor had to come and clean up our mess.”
Warren, a Democrat, has been a frequent critic of DeSantis, including calling the governor’s 2021 “anti-riot” legislation a misguided “solution in search of a problem.”
On Thursday, Warren was set to host a news conference about a “major 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.
Under the state Constitution, a governor can suspend state officials for misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties or commission of a felony.
As Warren’s replacement, DeSantis appointed Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez, a former county prosecutor who DeSantis named to the bench last year.
DeSantis said he did not speak with Warren about his concerns before suspending him.
The governor’s decision was a stunning override of the the 369,129 Hillsborough County voters who cast their ballot for Warren in 2020, which made up 53.4% of the turnout.
It also had echoes of a 2016 clash between former Gov. Rick Scott and Aramis Ayala, the state’s first Black state attorney, representing Orange and Osceola counties.
Ayala stunned many supporters and made national news when, just two months into office, she announced she would not be seeking the death penalty in any cases, including in the case of Markeith Loyd, who was charged with killing police Lt. Debra Clayton and Loyd’s pregnant ex-girlfriend.
Scott reassigned that case and 28 others to a neighboring state attorney’s office, but did not suspend her. Ayala is now running for attorney general.
On Wednesday, DeSantis’ spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, warned on Twitter that there would be a “MAJOR announcement” by the governor Thursday morning.
“Prepare for the liberal media meltdown of the year,” she wrote.
Herald/Times staff writer Romy Ellenbogen contributed to this report.
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