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Governor Ron DeSantis suspends Monique Worrell, Orange-Osceola State Attorney

 Monique Worrell speaks at a press conference at the Orange County Courthouse just hours after her suspension. <br/>
Talia Blake
Monique Worrell speaks at a press conference at the Orange County Courthouse just hours after her suspension.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended Orange-Osceola state attorney Monique Worrell from office.

In a news conference Wednesday, the governor said Worrell hasn’t been tough on crime in her jurisdiction and her constituents need a prosecutor who will seek justice. He says she’s avoided minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes and drug offenses.

This is the second Democratic state attorney suspended by DeSantis. The governor removed Tampa’s top prosecutor Andrew Warren last year. In both cases, they were replaced by Republicans.

The removal follows an investigation by the governor’s office into Worrell’s conduct as prosecutor after 19-year-old Kieth Moses was charged with fatally shooting three people in Pine Hills.

At a press conference just hours after the suspension was announced, Worrell says she plans to fight the suspension and her removal will not stop her from running for reelection.

“I will not be quiet. I will not sit down. This office is just a building. I have been a public servant for my entire career. I will continue to serve our community. I will continue to stand for democracy, I will continue to protect the rights of the disenfranchised.”

She was elected in 2020 with 66% of the vote.

Kara Gross, the legislative director and senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida, criticized the suspension.

“Ousting elected officials because you disagree with their leadership and installing hand-picked individuals to take over their job responsibilities is what happens in authoritarian regimes, not democratic nations," Gross said. "In a democracy, you can’t just remove elected officials who you don’t like. Elections matter. This matters. The whole country is watching.”

UCF political scientists Aubrey Jewett said the governor’s suspensions are legal in Florida, but DeSantis is the first to use the measure over policy disagreements.

“The Florida constitution does give the power of suspension of local officials to the governor under certain conditions. And there's about five or six things listed, but they're pretty broad things like malfeasance — you know how exactly how those are defined.”

The president of the League of Women Voters of Orange County, Tiffany Hughes, said the suspension was not a representation of democracy.

“Removing State Attorney Worrell and in turn subverting the will of voters in Orange and Osceola counties is a deeply troubling violation of the principles of democracy and undermines the very essence of our representative governance,” Hughes said. "Removal of an elected official through means that disregards democratic processes is a grave concern for the integrity of our democracy.”

Worrell said she plans to run for reelection.

Copyright 2023 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Marian Summerall