Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has used his executive power to spectacularly suspend a second state attorney in just over a year.
Until last Wednesday, Monique Worrell oversaw Florida’s 9th judicial circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties, which include the city of Orlando.
But not any longer.
“I am today announcing the suspension of state attorney Monique Worrell from the 9th judicial circuit, effective immediately,” DeSantis told reporters Wednesday.
The governor said Worrell’s administration has been “clearly and fundamentally derelict so as to constitute both neglect of duty and incompetence.”
#BREAKING: Gov. Ron DeSantis suspends Democratic State Attorney Monique Worrell, effective immediately, citing lack of mandatory minimum sentencings for various crimes, neglect of duty, and abusing discretion pic.twitter.com/O0Pe1UbTVH— Florida’s Voice (@FLVoiceNews) August 9, 2023
Last August, DeSantis suspended Tampa-area prosecutor Andrew Warren for vowing to not enforce newly passed pro-life legislation.
Pundits, political figures, and the press have swarmed to the latest suspension story like bees to the honeypot, not least due to DeSantis’ high-profile presidential campaign.
“Ron DeSantis suspends second elected prosecutor as his 2024 campaign struggles,” NBC News jabbed, in a nakedly partisan headline.
Worrell herself joined in the chorus, claiming in an emergency press conference, “I believe that the governor wants to make the entire state of Florida a red state and that he wants to remove the will of any Democratic voters.” It was “retaliation for the counties where he did not win,” she alleged.
Predictably, many made hay of Worrell’s sex and ethnicity, suggesting DeSantis was motivated to remove her since she was the only black woman serving as a state attorney in Florida. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus in D.C. called the decision an “abuse of power,” saying “This … is not only an attack on Democratic Black leaders in Florida, but an attack on our democracy itself.”
What the one-eyed press was reluctant to discuss was Monique Worrell’s record, which alone was the subject of DeSantis’ executive order.
It’s a bleak record, so it’s no wonder they avoided it.
Monique Worrell has a sordid history of downgrading or dropping charges in serious criminal cases. Her office enabled “violent offenders, drug traffickers, serious-juvenile offenders, and pedophiles to evade incarceration, when otherwise warranted under Florida law.” In case after case, offenders she sent back to the streets went on to commit far more egregious crimes.
Worrell turned her nose up at Florida’s mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. Spanning a two-year period, her administration imposedonly one such sentence despite receiving 58 relevant referrals from one county sheriff’s office.
The same sheriff’s office referred 130 cases involving convicted felons possessing firearms in violation of the law during the same two-year period. Only five received a mandatory minimum sentence.
In 2022, all 64 drug trafficking cases referred to her office managed to avoid a mandatory minimum sentence.
The individual stories are infuriating, even heartbreaking.
Daton Viel was arrested earlier this year for sexual battery and molestation of a minor. The arrest took place while he was already on probation for another offence. Even so, Viel was still let out on bond. Then, earlier this month, Viel shot two Orlando police officers.
Last year, Lorenzo Larry was arrested for serious firearms offences but then released. Worrell’s office only caught up with Larry once he had shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend.
As a juvenile, Moses was arrested for battery that was related to domestic violence, armed robbery, and grand theft. Again in 2021, he was arrested for drug possession, but Worrell’s office did not charge him. Then in February of this year, as a 19-year-old, Moses shot five people, killing a reporter and a 9-year-old girl.
The upshot of Worrell being fired?
A bruised ego for a derelict state attorney.
A flurry of fake news headlines and histrionics from the chattering class.
And safer streets for the city of Orlando.
The fired state attorney is not happy and is fighting back.
Today we mourn the loss of democracy. I am the duly-elected State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Nothing done by a weak dictator can change that. This is an outrage. I will not be bullied by DeSantis or used as a tool in his failing and disastrous presidential campaign. pic.twitter.com/OVn4E1v54p— Monique H. Worrell (@MoniqueHWorrell) August 9, 2023