DeSantis Suspends Tampa Prosecutor Who Vowed Not to Criminalize Abortion
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida suspended the top prosecutor in Tampa on Thursday, accusing him of incompetence and neglect of duty for vowing not to prosecute those who seek or provide abortions.
In a startling announcement, Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, suspended from office Andrew H. Warren, the elected state attorney of Hillsborough County.
In June, Mr. Warren, a Democrat, was among 90 elected prosecutors across the country who vowed not to prosecute those who seek or provide abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Florida imposed a 15-week abortion ban in April.
The decision immediately raised concerns among Democrats, including Mr. Warren, who say that the governor has become increasingly heavy-handed.
Mr. DeSantis said that the abortion statement and other actions by Mr. Warren amounted to “incompetence and willful defiance of his duties,” and that the prosecutor’s approach to the job left Mr. DeSantis with no choice but to suspend him.
“When you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty, you have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties,” Mr. DeSantis said to cheers at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, where he was flanked by a gaggle of uniformed sheriffs and police chiefs.
The suspension of Mr. Warren, a prominent Democrat and frequent DeSantis critic who is serving in his second term as the chief prosecutor for the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, evidently came as news even to his office.
Mr. Warren said in a statement that his suspension “spits in the face of the voters.”
“Today’s political stunt is an illegal overreach that continues a dangerous pattern by Ron DeSantis of using his office to further his own political ambition,” Mr. Warren said, adding, “The people have the right to elect their own leaders — not have them dictated by an aspiring presidential candidate who has shown time and again he feels accountable to no one.”
The law enforcement officials who appeared with Mr. DeSantis expressed frustration with Mr. Warren for not prosecuting certain crimes. “Andrew Warren is a fraud,” said Brian Dugan, a former chief of the Tampa Police Department.
The sheriffs and police chiefs took turns praising Mr. DeSantis and criticizing liberal-leaning cities — New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco — by name. Anti-abortion groups also applauded Mr. DeSantis.