TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that he has suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell.
Worrell served as the state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for the State of Florida, which represents Orange and Osceola counties. She was elected in Nov. 2020.
DeSantis said he suspended Worrell for “neglecting her duty to faithfully prosecute crime in her jurisdiction.”
“Worrell’s practices and policies have too often allowed violent criminals to escape the full consequences of their criminal conduct, thereby endangering the innocent civilians of Orange and Osceola counties,” a news release said.
“It is my duty as Governor to ensure that the laws enacted by our duly elected Legislature are followed,” DeSantis said. “The people of central Florida deserve to have a State Attorney who will seek justice in accordance with the law instead of allowing violent criminals to roam the streets and find new victims.”
The suspension comes days after two Orlando police officers were shot during a traffic stop. Police said Daton Viel fired at the officers and critically injured them. Viel was later shot and killed by SWAT team members at a hotel.
Viel was arrested in March 2023 for sexual battery on a minor. The arrest was made while Viel was on probation for another offense. DeSantis said Viel was still let out on bond and thereafter shot two Orlando police officers.
“I have no doubt that today’s decision is not only consistent with the Constitution and laws of Florida and that we have a right to act,” DeSantis said. I know that with today’s decision we had a duty to act to protect the public from this dereliction of duty.”
The governor appointed Judge Andrew Bain to the position. He most recently served as a judge in Orange County.
U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, whose district includes Orange County, called the decision a “blatant abuse of power and fascism” slammed DeSantis’ struggling presidential campaign.
“We saw this coming from a mile away – with his presidential campaign up in flames, wanna-be dictator Governor Ron DeSantis is taking a page out of his tired playbook by unconstitutionally suspending a duly elected State Attorney to breathe life back into his tired conservative persona,” Rep. Frost wrote in a statement.
Frost said Florida residents “have become pawns in DeSantis’s long-term plans for total and absolute power” and accused the governor of ignoring issues at home.
“Where has this Governor been as our insurance market collapses? Or as thousands of people get priced out of their homes during one of the worst affordability crises our state has ever seen while Florida battles record inflation?” Frost said. “He’s not in Florida because he does not care.”
“There is only one person in our state whose’ administration has been ‘clearly and fundamentally derelict, so as to constitute neglect of duty and incompetence’,” Frost said, quoting DeSantis. “And it’s the person sitting in the Governor’s Mansion.”
Florida Rep. Rita Harris, who represents Orlando, also decried Worrell’s suspension, calling it “a gross abuse of power.”
“In removing a duly elected official, who is also the only Black woman State Attorney in Florida, Gov. DeSantis has made his priorities clear,” Harris said. “He does not care about the will of Floridians, but is actively using us as pawns to energize a national base in his run for higher office.”
Harris called the decision “outrageous and against the very fabric of our democracy” and said DeSantis “has taken [the state attorney’s] office hostage.”
Worrell is the second state attorney that DeSantis has suspended. Last August, Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren from office.
This is a developing story. Stay up to date on the latest from News Channel 8 on-air and on the go with the free WFLA News Channel 8 mobile app.