(WASHINGTON) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday morning that he is suspending the state attorney for Orlando, Monique Worrell, effective immediately. This marks the second time in a year that DeSantis has made the rare move to suspend a state attorney.
Worrell fired back Wednesday, calling DeSantis a “weak dictator” who was removing elected officials for political gain.
Worrell’s suspension comes after receiving criticism that her office should have done more to keep Daton Viel, the man accused of shooting two Orlando police officers on Friday, locked up when he was arrested earlier this year.
“The state of Florida is a law and order state and that means we support the men and women who wear the uniform who protect and serve,” said DeSantis, a Republican running for president. “It means we have strong policies to hold criminals accountable for their misconduct.”
DeSantis announced in his Wednesday press conference that he is appointing Judge Andrew Bain to replace Worrell as State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, saying that Worrell neglected her duty as a prosecutor.
“Monique Worrell’s administration of criminal justice in the Ninth Circuit has been clearly and fundamentally derelict so as to constitute both neglect of duty and incompetence,” DeSantis said.
Worrell was elected the state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court in 2020. She was the second African American elected to the position.
The governor said the grounds for Worrell’s suspension included patterns or practices to avoid seeking minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes and drug-trafficking offenses, and for allowing juvenile offenders to avoid serious charges and incarceration.
DeSantis said that Worrell was too lenient toward some criminals and was not holding them accountable.
“But what this state attorney has done is abuse that discretion and is effectively nullified certain laws in the state of Florida that breaches her duties that she owes to the people of Florida under our state constitution, and provides the basis for the suspension and we can look to see all these different instances of people who have committed criminal offenses victimize people because they were not held accountable in accordance with the laws of Florida when they had the opportunity to hold them accountable.”
Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Worrell said during a Wednesday morning news conference that DeSantis’ decision won’t keep her from running for reelection.
“I am your duly elected state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and nothing done by a weak dictator can change that,” Worrell said.
Worrell said elected officials are being targeted for political agendas in Florida and that removals aren’t passing the very high threshold needed.
“Under this tyranny, elected officials can be removed simply for political purposes, and by a whim of the governor,” Worrell said.
Earlier this year, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Worrell said DeSantis was building a case to suspend her from office for political reasons.
“I am an elected Democrat who is not in alignment with the governor’s politics,” Worrell said at a news conference. “This has been an attempt to build a basis for a suspension.”
“This isn’t about whether I follow the law, this isn’t about whether or not my policies are a danger to public safety,” she said. “This is about the governor wanting to control the politics across this state. And quite frankly, it’s dangerous because this is a democracy, not a dictatorship.”
In August of 2022, DeSantis suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren, a Democrat, after Warren signed two joint statements, saying he would refuse to prosecute crimes related to abortion and gender transition treatments for children.
Warren sued DeSantis over his suspension, with the case eventually making its way to the Florida Supreme Court, where it was dismissed. A federal judge later upheld DeSantis’ suspension of Warren, but condemned the governor for violating Warren’s right to free speech.
DeSantis’ most recent announcement came one day after he reshuffled his presidential campaign staff as he works to catch up with former President Donald Trump in the polls.
Worrell took a jab at how DeSantis’ campaign is struggling, saying that the governor “needed to get back in the media in some positive way that would be red meat for his base and he would have accomplished that today.”
“He will be in the news nationally and internationally for the individual who has single-handedly destroyed democracy in the state of Florida,” Worrell said.
ABC News has reached out to DeSantis for comment.
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