Gov. Ron DeSantis shocked Tampa Bay Thursday when he removed Andrew Warren from his office as Hillsborough County’s attorney general.
DeSantis said Warren, a Democrat and rising star in progressive law enforcement circles, has “put himself above the law” by promising not to enforce laws restricting abortion or children’s ability to seek certain treatments for gender dysphoria. DeSantis used a stay clause in the Florida constitution that means Warren was essentially fired.
Let’s take a closer look at Warren’s file, where he came from and how we arrived at Thursday’s decision.
1. Warren scored a big upset in 2016.
Andrew Warren was a relatively anonymous Democratic advocate until 2016 election night, when he unseated Mark Ober, the incumbent Republican, in the Hillsborough County prosecutor’s race. At the time, the Times called Warren’s win a “stunning surprise on election night.”
Warren, a former federal prosecutor, ran an aggressive campaign attacking his opponent for alleged absenteeism and lack of sensitivity to crime victims. (At the time, Ober said both characterizations were misleading.) Warren also promised to rehabilitate those convicted of crimes and issue policies that would prevent criminals from becoming repeat offenders.
2. His office helped exonerate a wrongly convicted man who had been imprisoned for nearly four decades.
In 2018, Warren established a Conviction Review Unit at the Hillsborough District Attorney’s Office. Not long after, evidence presented to the unit by the Innocence Project prompted a judge to reverse the conviction of Robert DuBoise, a man who had been wrongly imprisoned for 37 years. DuBoise was convicted of the murder of Barbara Grams in the 1980s.
The unit was one of many progressive initiatives by Warren. He has rarely sought the death penalty in fatalities. And he’d stopped his office from charging people for driving with a suspended license if the suspension was based on a financial obligation, like an unpaid parking ticket.
3. Warren was a thorn in the side of the Conservatives.
Perhaps the most well-known smack of Warren’s tenure as prosecutor came during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. In April 2020, prosecutors supported the arrest of a megachurch pastor who had personally conducted services. Then DeSantis signed an executive order allowing personal services to continue.
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In response, Warren called DeSantis’ move “weak” and “spineless.” The charges against the pastor were later dropped.
Warren also criticized some of DeSantis’ legislative priorities. He said HB 1 of 2021, the so-called “anti-riot” law, is tantamount to “criminalizing peaceful protests”.
The anti-protest laws (HB1/SB484) are of no help to prosecutors and directly undermine early freedom of expression and association by criminalizing peaceful protests by the many based on the unlawful behavior of the few. This morning I shared my thoughts with the Legislature.https://t.co/ZYN6MCFItK
— Andrew Warren (@AndrewWarrenFL) March 10, 2021
He declined to prosecute 67 people arrested during protests against police brutality in the summer of 2020, angering some Conservatives.
And after the Supreme Court decision by Roe v. Wade’s abortion precedent, Warren said he would not press charges against abortion patients. In a tweet, he argued that Florida’s constitution contains a clause protecting the right to privacy.
This proclamation was one of DeSantis’ justifications for the prosecutor’s suspension.
4. Warren has been accused of being funded by out-of-state liberal billionaires.
On Thursday, when asked about whether it was appropriate to remove an elected official, DeSantis alluded to Warren’s campaign support from wealthy progressives hoping to reshape the criminal justice system.
“We can go back and look at some of these elections and all the money that’s coming in from people who don’t live in Florida and are really trying to push an agenda on the people of Florida,” DeSantis said. (The governor has received tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from billionaires out of state.)
Rumors of Warren being backed by financiers like George Soros date back to 2016.
According to a Warren the Times profile published in 2020, Soros likely helped Warren’s campaign.
“We understand that he gave money to the state (Democratic) party,” Warren said at the time. “And the state party funds … were used to support various candidates. And I have very little insight into the amount of money he gave, who it went to, etc.
5. Tampa has seen more murders in recent years.
Tampa’s violent crime rate has skyrocketed in recent years, with the city recording its most homicides in 2021 it had seen since 1994, according to Tampa Police Department statistics compiled by the Times editorial board.
Although such crimes occur statewide and across the country, Tampa has seen slightly more homicides than most other Florida cities, the editor said in April.