PUNTA GORDA, Fla.—Gov. Ron DeSantis removed a Hillsborough County state attorney on Aug. 4 because he did not follow the rule of law.
At a press conference on Aug. 5, Florida’s governor said he suspended Andrew Warren, who represented the 13th judicial circuit in Hillsborough County, on the basis of “neglect of duty.”
The accusation stems from 2020 when Black Lives Matter riots hit Tampa; cars were set ablaze and police officers were barricaded in their patrol cars.
Hillsborough County sheriff Chad Chronister said, “no one was ever prosecuted even though arrests were made.”
“We are resolved to apprehend the criminals who prey upon law-abiding citizens in our community, it’s our duty—and we trust that our criminal justice system, the state attorney, and the public defender will adjudicate the circumstances and hold those who are guilty accountable,” Chronister said at the Aug. 4 press conference.
The governor exercised his executive powers to bar Warren from office and suspend his wages after an investigation.
“As I saw that happening across the country earlier this year I asked my staff in my office to look around the state and to make sure that wasn’t going to happen here, where you would have individual prosecutors nullify laws that were enacted by the people’s representatives. They spoke with law enforcement throughout the state, they spoke with line prosecutors throughout the state,” DeSantis said at his Aug. 5 press conference.
In addition to not prosecuting criminals, Warren has publicly objected to prosecuting people under Florida’s newly enacted 15-week abortion ban and has signaled that he supports gender-affirming treatments for trans minors, which DeSantis has condemned.
But the governor says that Warren’s lack of “following the rule of law” is the reason for his suspension.
“Our government is a government of laws, not a government of men, and what that means is that we govern ourselves based on a Constitutional system, and based on the rule of law,” DeSantis said.
“What we’ve seen over the past few years is individual prosecutors take it upon themselves to determine which laws they like and will enforce, and which laws they don’t like and don’t enforce.”
Griffin said the governor reviewed the “findings” and was left with no choice but to exercise his authority as set out in the Florida Constitution.
DeSantis told reporters that “social justice policies” created under “rogue” prosecutors have been “devastating to the rule of law,” in addition, it hurts “working-class communities and undermines public safety.”
Grady Judd, “America’s Sheriff,” as he has been dubbed, agreed with the governor’s decision.
“We’ve got a dumpster fire going on in this nation,” Judd said during the conference. “And you know who’s getting burned in this dumpster fire? The working people.”
Judd said cities like New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Chicago had prosecutors who had “signed the same pledges as Warren” had the highest murder rates in the country, and that “criminals weren’t being held accountable.”
After the findings were in DeSantis said he found law enforcement was “frustrated” over putting their lives on the line, arresting suspects, and filling out paperwork—just to have the criminals “turned loose.”
“It all came back to this area in the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County,” DeSantis said. “The response we got was a lot of frustration on the part of law enforcement for criminals being let go and crimes not being prosecuted.”
The suspension came after Warren was “putting himself publicly above the law,” DeSantis said.
Chronister said Warren’s suspension “is not political to me, it’s about law and order” and making sure the community was safe.
He said Warren had been “reducing charges, dropping cases, and single-handedly determining which crimes would be legal or illegal in our county.”
Chronister recalled a September 2021 case where a suspect had “shot someone, then opened fire on a residence where the victim sought refuge and protection.”
The suspect was arrested, released from jail, and arrested again on burglary charges.
Chronister said Warren did not press charges because the depositions “would have been too lengthy and complicated.”
After his suspension, Warren issued a written statement calling the governor’s actions a “political stunt” and an “illegal overreach.”
“It spits in the face of the voters of Hillsborough County who have twice elected me to serve them, not Ron DeSantis,” Warren wrote.
“Just because the governor violates your rights, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
Two gubernatorial candidates vying to represent the Democratic party in November spoke out against Warren’s suspension.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist said DeSantis was a “wannabe dictator” and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called DeSantis a “pathetic bully” who “wants to be a dictator, not a governor of Florida.”
Both Democratic candidates said DeSantis’ decision was “politically motivated.”
The Florida Senate would have to remove Warren from office and he is only suspended at this point.
Warren took office in 2016 and was reelected in 2020 and has been described as a “rising star” in the Democrat party.