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DeSantis suspends state attorney for abuse of prosecutorial discretion

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(The Center Square) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended a prosecutor on Wednesday for not doing enough to prosecute crimes in her district.

In an executive order issued Wednesday, DeSantis suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell of the 9th Judicial Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola counties, and replaced her with Andrew Bain, who served as a judge in Orange County.

“Monique Worrell’s administration of criminal justice in the 9th Circuit, has been clearly and fundamentally derelict, so as to constitute both neglect of duty and incompetence,” DeSantis said.

In DeSantis’ executive order suspending Worrell, the grounds for suspension included a pattern or practice to avoid minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes, declining to ask for minimum sentences for drug trafficking and limiting charges for child pornography offenses.

Juvenile offenders were also able to avoid severe charges and incarceration altogether and Worrell also failed to apply valid sentencing enhancements.

The order says the 9th Circuit’s prison admission rates are below the statewide average across all but three of the 54 categories of criminal offenses. The circuit’s total prison admission rate is the lowest in the state, less than half of the statewide average, according to the order.

“Prosecutors do have a certain amount of discretion, about which cases to bring and which not,” DeSantis said. “But what this State Attorney has done is abuse that discretion, and has effectively nullified certain laws in the state of Florida. That breaches her duties that she owes to the people of Florida.”

DeSantis pointed out instances where both adult and juvenile offenders had been essentially let off the hook without charge or a felony record. One juvenile offender, in particular, had gone on to murder his pregnant girlfriend at 17, after several charges had been brought against him for gun violence.

DeSantis stated that had Worrell upheld her duties, the murder of the juvenile’s girlfriend and their unborn child could have been prevented.

Another juvenile offender had been charged with multiple counts of armed robbery after invading a home at gunpoint in 2018.

These charges carried a minimum of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum life sentence, but instead five of the charges were not prosecuted and adjudication was withheld on the remaining charges by Worrell. Therefore, the offender was not considered a convicted felon and served only 51 weeks in prison as a youthful offender.

DeSantis also said two Orlando police officers were shot after Worrell failed to appropriately sentence a sex offender and instead allowed the offender to post bond. The incident happened upon his release, according to DeSantis.

“I have no doubt that today’s decision is not only consistent with the Constitution and laws of Florida, that we have a right to act…we had a duty to act to protect the public from this dereliction of duty,” DeSantis said.

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