Governor Ron DeSantis shocked Tampa Bay on Thursday when he removed Andrew Warren from his office as Hillsborough County prosecutor.
DeSantis said Warren, a Democrat and rising star in progressive law enforcement circles, put himself “above the law” by promising not to enforce laws restricting abortion or children’s ability to seek certain treatments for gender dysphoria. DeSantis used a suspension clause in the Florida Constitution that meant Warren was essentially fired.
Let’s take a closer look at Warren’s case, examining where he came from and how we arrived at Thursday’s decision.
1. Warren scored a major upset in 2016.
Andrew Warren was a relatively anonymous Democratic attorney until election night in 2016 when he ousted Republican incumbent Mark Ober in the race for Hillsborough County prosecutor. At the time, The Times called Warren’s victory a “stunning election night upset.”
Warren, a former federal prosecutor, ran an aggressive campaign attacking his opponent for alleged truancy and lack of sensitivity to victims of crime. (At the time, Ober said both characterizations were misleading.) Warren was also committed to rehabilitating those convicted of crimes and enacting policies that would prevent criminals from becoming repeat offenders.
2. His office helped exonerate a wrongfully convicted man imprisoned for nearly four decades.
In 2018, Warren established a Conviction Review Unit at the Hillsborough State’s Attorney’s Office. Soon after, evidence submitted to the unit by the Innocence Project led a judge to overturn the conviction of Robert DuBoise, a man wrongfully imprisoned for 37 years. DuBoise was convicted in the 1980s of murdering Barbara Grams.
The unit was one of Warren’s many progressive initiatives. He rarely sought the death penalty in capital murder cases. And he’d avoided his office charging people for driving with a suspended license if the suspension was due to a financial obligation, like an unpaid speeding ticket.
3. Warren has been a thorn in the side of the Conservatives.
Perhaps the most high-profile part of Warren’s tenure as prosecutor came during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. In April 2020, the prosecutor supported the arrest of a mega-church pastor who held in-person church services. Then DeSantis signed an executive order allowing in-person services to continue.
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In response, Warren called DeSantis’ move “weak” and “thornless.” The charges against the pastor were later dropped.
Warren also criticized some of DeSantis’ legislative priorities. He said HB 1 of 2021, the so-called “riot” bill, amounted to “criminalizing peaceful protest”.
He refused to prosecute 67 people arrested during the summer of 2020 protests against police brutality, angering some conservatives.
And following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the abortion precedent set by Roe v. Wade, Warren said he wouldn’t press charges against aborted patients. In a tweethe held that the Florida Constitution had a clause protecting the right to privacy.
This proclamation was one of DeSantis’ justifications for suspending the prosecutor.
4. Warren has been accused of being funded by out-of-state liberal billionaires.
On Thursday, in response to a question about whether to remove an elected official, DeSantis alluded to support for Warren’s campaign by wealthy progressives hoping to overhaul the criminal justice system.
“We can go back and look at some of these elections and all the money that’s come from people who don’t live in Florida and are really trying to pressure Florida people,” DeSantis said. (The governor has received tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from out-of-state billionaires.)
Rumors of support for Warren from financiers such as George Soros date back to 2016.
According to a Warren the Times profile published in 2020, Soros likely helped Warren’s campaign.
“We understand he gave money to the (Democrat) state party,” Warren said at the time. “And the state party money… went to support different candidates. And I have very little information about how much money he gave, who he went to, etc.
5. Tampa has seen more murders in recent years.
Tampa’s violent crime rate has been on the rise in recent years, with the city recording the most murders in 2021 it has seen since 1994, according to Tampa Police Department statistics compiled by the Editorial Board of The Times.
Although such crimes are on the rise in the state and nationwide, Tampa has seen slightly more murders than most other cities in Florida, the Editorial Board said in April.
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