ORLANDO, Fla. – In an escalation of rhetoric between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell, the governor’s office on Tuesday demanded the criminal records of Keith Moses, the suspect in last week’s string of shootings in the Pine Hills area that resulted in three deaths.
Ryan Newman, the general counsel for DeSantis’ office, sent a letter to Worrell demanding records related to Moses, including copies of all reports, letters, summaries, statements and emails regarding the 19-year-old suspect or decisions made about him, and copies of all documents related to his juvenile record.
Newman also demanded information on any other individuals who committed a felony or violated the terms of their probation by being arrested and those who had a prior criminal history but were not prosecuted by Worrell’s office.
Newman gave Worrell a deadline of March 14 for the request.
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Moses has a criminal history that includes eight felonies and 11 misdemeanor cases, all but one of which happened when he was a juvenile.
The only adult case where Moses was arrested occurred in 2021, when he was charged as an adult for possessing drug paraphernalia and cannabis.
Last week, Worrell pointed out that the amount of marijuana Moses was found with amounted to less than 5 grams, too small an amount to be tested according to Florida law, and without testing, Worrell’s office felt they couldn’t prosecute Moses.
However, Newman said the fact that Worrell’s office didn’t prosecute Moses — even though he was a known gang member, was with other people with violent criminal histories at the time of the arrest and how there were ski masks involved in the case, according to a police report — “may have permitted this dangerous individual to remain on the street.”
Newman said DeSantis’ office seeks to learn “valuable lessons from this heartbreaking event.”
“We must determine if Mr. Moses was enabled by gaps in our sentencing laws that must be corrected, or, to be frank, your office’s failure to properly administer justice,” Newman said.
On Monday, DeSantis criticized Worrell’s office while talking about the case.
“You have to hold people accountable,” DeSantis said. “(The) state attorney in Orlando thinks that you don’t prosecute people and that’s the way that you somehow have better communities. That does not work.”
Worrell, however, told News 6 on Tuesday that the governor’s remarks were a false narrative and her office has resolved nearly 3,000 cases this year, accusing DeSantis of politicizing the tragedy and calling his words “shameful.”
“Painting a narrative that there’s something that prosecutors could have done to keep this individual off the streets is just not true,” Worrell said.
On Wednesday, Worrell responded to the letter from DeSantis’ office and said they were gathering all the materials Newman requested.
“There have been a number of misconceptions, some of which are included in the letter we received yesterday, floated by other elected officials in the aftermath of this tragedy that we are continually working to correct,” Worrell said. “The suggestions and accusations that my office’s “policies” promote crime are empty political statements unsupported by actual facts.”
Worrell’s letter also mentioned a letter that Sen. Rick Scott released Tuesday demanding answers, and said her office never received the letter directly.
“Given that Sen. Scott didn’t send the letter to our office directly, but rather posted it on social media, the State Attorney’s office will not be responding to his request,” Worrell said.
Worrell has laid the fault in Moses’ case on failures of the laws governing the juvenile justice system and has called for reform, saying the system is not built to deal with violent juvenile offenders.
The bill does not have a companion in the Florida Senate yet. The deadline for state lawmakers to file bills before next week’s annual Florida Legislative Session is March 3.
He’s also accused of shooting Spectrum News 13 photographer Jesse Walden, 29, and T’yonna’s mother, who were both critically injured.
[READ THE LETTER SENT BY GOV. DESANTIS’ OFFICE]
[READ THE RESPONSE BY WORRELL’S OFFICE]
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