Only six hours after he was suspended Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Andrew Warren insisted he was still Hillsborough County’s top prosecutor, and that the governor was trying to “overthrow” democracy.
DeSantis announced Thursday morning that he was replacing Warren with Hillsborough County Judge Susan Lopez, but that didn’t stop Warren from going ahead with an afternoon press conference to announce new developments in two grisly 1983 crimes — separate rape and murder cases, one that went unsolved and another that initially resulted in a wrongful conviction.
“I’m still doing this job as state attorney. I’m the twice-duly elected state attorney of Hillsborough County. And the governor signing something with a pen or a crayon doesn’t change that,” Warren, a Democrat, said of DeSantis’ order.
The governor’s office responded Thursday, “If Andrew Warren made such a statement, then it is yet another display of his lack of respect for the law. He has been legally suspended from office by the governor, and may no longer conduct the affairs of the office of the State Attorney of the 13th Judicial Circuit, pending his removal by the Senate.”
It wasn’t Warren’s work on those cases that drew the governor’s attention but rather Warren’s professed refusal to enforce a new law preventing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
“The conduct that he has done has fell below the standard that’s required in the Florida Constitution. When you’re saying you’re not going to enforce certain laws you don’t like, that’s a neglect of duty,” DeSantis said.
The legislature passed the 15-week abortion law during this year’s legislative session, and DeSantis signed it in April. Providers could face third-degree felony charges for breaking the law.
Warren recently signed a joint letter along with more than 90 other prosecutors from across the country promising to avoid prosecuting people for providing or seeking abortions. The letter was published in June by the organization Fair and Just Prosecution, which bills itself as bringing together elected local prosecutors to promote “a justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility.”
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During his Tampa appearance to announce Warren’s suspension, the governor invited law-enforcement officials from the Tampa Bay area.
Former Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, who retired in 2021, called Warren a “fraud” and criticized Warren for not prosecuting 67 Tampa protesters who were arrested during demonstrations after the death of George Floyd in 2020 in Minneapolis.
Warren also signed a separate letter last year “condemning the criminalization of transgender people and gender-affirming healthcare,” which also was published by Fair and Just Prosecution.
“That’s a debate that we’re having mostly administratively and through medical licensing in Florida. But other states have enacted penalties on the people who would perform those, which are really disfiguring these young kids. And (Warren) said it doesn’t matter what the Legislature does in the state of Florida, he’s going to exercise a veto over that,” DeSantis said Thursday.
DeSantis said he will pursue Warren’s eventual removal from the 13th Judicial Circuit post, which would need approval from a Republican-controlled state Senate.
Warren on Thursday said he has “a feeling” that DeSantis’ order suspending him “is going to be just as unconstitutional” as the 15-week abortion law.
“The governor’s trying to overthrow the results of a fair and free election. Two of them, actually. And people need to understand, this isn’t the governor trying to suspend one elected official. This is the governor trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County,” Warren said Thursday.
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