Nov 30, 2022 - News

Suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren takes the stand

Ron DeSantis and Andrew Warren

Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) and suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren. Photos: Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images; Chris O'Meara/AP Photo

A memo drafted by the staff of Gov. Ron DeSantis listed a "leftist prosecutor is removed from a position of power”’ as one of the “benefits” of ousting Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren.

  • And DeSantis’ communications staff privately celebrated the more than $2 million in “totally free earned media” from Warren’s suspension.

Driving the news: Those and other salient facts came out in federal court in Tallahassee yesterday as suspended State Attorney Warren tried to convince U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle he was illegally removed from office.

Why it matters: It's the first time in recent history that a Florida governor has removed a state attorney from the job — and the battle over the limits of Gov. DeSantis' suspension authority has had a ripple effect across Tampa Bay.

  • Many local Democrats feared they could be next to lose their jobs for pushing back against DeSantis after Warren's removal, while some residents wondered if their votes actually mattered.

Catch up quick: DeSantis suspended Warren, a Democrat, at a political rally in August, accusing him of "incompetence and willful defiance as early as June 2021."

  • DeSantis said Warren was shirking his duty in part because he signed a pledge not to press charges against those receiving an abortion or their doctors, or families seeking treatment for transgender minors.
  • Warren sued DeSantis shortly after to get his job back, on the grounds of prosecutorial discretion and the First Amendment protection of free speech.
  • Warren's suit alleges that DeSantis didn't cite any conduct that would warrant a suspension and says the governor is retaliating against Warren for voicing positions that DeSantis opposes.

The latest: Warren took the witness stand after opening statements Tuesday, telling the court he first learned of his suspension from an email sent by DeSantis' "public safety czar" Larry Keefe, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

  • In the memo drafted by DeSantis' staff, one of the listed benefits of suspending Warren was "A leftist prosecutor is removed from a position of power." One of the drawbacks was, "Political battle is likely to increase Warren's profile."

What they're saying: DeSantis’ attorney, George Levesque, said Tuesday that the memo was initially dismissed by DeSantis' lawyers since it was written by an unpaid legal intern and included "glaring legal errors," according to the Times.

What's next: The trial is expected to wrap up by the end of this week or early next week after testimony from more witnesses, including the governor’s spokespeople and lawyers.


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