Florida leaders react to suspension of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell

Gov. DeSantis announced the suspension on Wednesday

Gov. Ron DeSantis announces the suspension of an Orlando-area state attorney. (WJXT)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the suspension of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell on Wednesday, citing a myriad of crimes that he said happened under her leadership.

In his address, DeSantis and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody claimed that those crimes could have been prevented under different leadership, stating that Judge Andrew Bain would take over her position.

During his criticisms, DeSantis accused Worrell of avoiding minimum mandatory sentences for gun-related crimes and drug trafficking offenses, which “subjects the residents of Orange and Osceola Counties and surrounding areas to increased risk of harm as violent criminals in the community are too often left on the streets or prematurely returned to the streets.”

Worrell called the suspension a “political hit job,” defending her record by explaining that her office didn’t have the necessary evidence to bring prior convictions against those accused in the related crimes.

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“Under my administration, this office will not operate on a ‘throw it against the wall to see what sticks’ mentality. We respect the rule of law. We understand what it takes to move a case from probable cause to reasonable doubt and we will not ignore the facts where they are lacking,” Worrell said in March.

Since the announcement, various Florida leaders have come out to voice their opinions on the issue, including Rep. Anna Eskamani, who has been a long-time critic of DeSantis’ administration.

“This is absolutely disgusting — State Attorney Monique Worrell is a duly elected official and the only Black woman serving as State Attorney in Florida right now. Her removal is a complete slap in the face to Orange and Osceola County residents and another example of Governor DeSantis eroding our local control and democracy. This politically motivated action by the Governor in a predominantly democratic part of the state should alarm everyone. DeSantis is extreme, unfit to serve, and must be held accountable.”

Rep. Anna Eskamani

Other Florida leaders and politicians discussed the decision on Wednesday. Their statements can be read below:

“As Chief of Police my focus has been on reducing violent crime in our community. I look forward to working closely with State Attorney Andrew Bain to make sure together we are keeping violent felons off our streets.”

Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith

“Once again, we see the Governor acting against the will of the voters by suspending another elected State Attorney. This trend of disregarding the democratic process has continued for years. First, the State Attorney for the 13th Circuit, then several School Board members in Broward County, and now, the duly elected State Attorney for the 9th Circuit in Orlando. Prosecutors are entrusted with the responsibility of exercising prosecutorial discretion, and these suspensions only undermine that crucial function. We have to protect the choice the voters made at the ballot box.”

Sen. Victor Torres

“When you’ve got somebody who’s a violent predator, you have to do everything in your power to prosecute them. Now, what a judge does is one thing, but as a prosecutor, if you’re coming after (criminals), and you consistently do that, then you’re going to consistently keep that bad guy behind bars and from perpetuating that reign of terror in our communities.

She’s got to act within the law, but you prosecute to the fullest extent. If the judge throws something out, then let the prosecutor say, point out and call the judge out for doing that. I have it here: juvenile judge decides to seal a case of violent crime against a kid, and then there’s the kid six weeks later, shooting somebody. Well, maybe if she had not sealed that and done her job, that kid wouldn’t have shot somebody...

I support the governor in what he’s doing. I understand what he’s trying to do, and I support what he’s trying to do. He’s standing behind law enforcement, and he’s standing behind communities.”

Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood at DeLand safety roundtable

“Ron DeSantis has gone too far. Monique Worrell is a devoted public servant — one who was elected overwhelmingly by her constituents. This political hit job threatens our democracy and undermines the will of the people.

Just days ago, Monique spoke out against Florida’s new education standards; standards that would teach our children that there was some kind of benefit to slavery. Ron’s extremist administration has consistently targeted the rights and freedoms of Black and brown Floridians, and the suspension of State Attorney Worrell — the only Black woman state attorney in Florida — is clearly racially* and politically motivated.

Ron’s presidential campaign has been a disaster of epic proportions, but attacking law and order in service of his culture wars isn’t the solution to his problems. On behalf of her constituents, the Florida Democratic Party demands the immediate reinstatement of State Attorney Worrell.”

Florida Democratic Chair Nikki Fried

“When it comes to law and order, Gov. DeSantis is not playing. Gov. DeSantis, like I and all the others standing up here, took an oath of office to protect our communities. He understands that government’s one-and-only responsibility is to protect its citizens. And his actions today, without question, save the lives of citizens in Central Florida.

They also saved the lives of citizens in other parts of this state. Because just like (Polk County) Sheriff Judd and other surrounding counties, those criminals that were being let out — not charged, not prosecuted — are coming into my county, as well. In fact, the two Orlando police officers that were shot were from Brevard County...

No matter how good a job we do to put bad people in jail, if the state attorney is not being the voice for the victims, our efforts are wasted. We arrest the same people over and over again.”

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey

“I’ve talked to the sheriffs of Osceola and Orange, and I can tell you, unequivocally, they fear for the citizens of the community because despite their best efforts, no matter how many criminals you arrest, if the state attorney won’t hold them accountable, then the community’s not safe.

Two Orlando police officers were shot in the face. You know why they were shot in the face? Because she didn’t ask for a pretrial hold on a very, very dangerous person. So these police officers out doing their job encounter him. What does he think? Probably, ‘They’re going to take me back to jail. Well, I’ll just shoot them because heck, after all, I probably won’t be prosecuted. I’ll be let out again.”

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd

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Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.