- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Orlando-area State Attorney Monique H. Worrell amid allegations of mishandling criminal cases, sparking mixed reactions.
- Worrell’s suspension follows criticism of her leniency towards high-profile cases, including the release of a repeat offender who later shot two police officers.
- Citing “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” as reasons for Worrell’s suspension, the move followed a similar pattern to the suspension of Andrew Warren.
- DeSantis appointed Judge Andrew Bain as the new state attorney to replace Worrell.
At a Tallahassee press conference early Wednesday morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the suspension of Orlando-area State Attorney Monique H. Worrell. The moved sparked instant reactions across the state – and will likely cause some national ripples, too – after months of speculation that DeSantis would make the move.
“The state of Florida is a law and order state,” said DeSantis during the announcement, emphasizing his stance on prioritizing the enforcement of Florida’s criminal laws. To replace Worrell, DeSantis appointed Judge Andrew Bain, an Orlando native and University of Miami alum, as the new state attorney for the ninth judicial circuit court.
Worrell’s suspension follows allegations and criticisms against her handling of several high-profile criminal cases, including her approach towards minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes, drug trafficking, and other serious offenses. Most recently, she has been under fire due to her office’s perceived leniency towards Daton Viel during a previous criminal case. Viel is the man who was later involved in the shooting of two Orlando police officers.
Worrell was elected in November 2020. Her suspension has led to mixed reactions, with some seeing it as a necessary move for public safety, while others believe it may be politically motivated.
The situation with Daton Viel came to a head last week, when the 28-year-old with a long arrest record – more than 24 separate arrest charges filed against him since 2016 – was arrested for the sexual assault of a minor. Despite his previous criminal history, Viel was released on a bond of $125,250. Months later, he was implicated in the shooting of two Orlando police officers, a situation that drew heavy criticism from the Fraternal Order of Police Orlando and other prominent figures, accusing Worrell of leniency in her prosecution approach.
In her defense, Worrell stated that the bond determination was the court’s responsibility, not hers.
“I don’t determine who gets out of jail. All I do is uphold the law,” she said. Worrell has continually expressed that the blame should rest with the individual perpetrators of crimes and not the legal decisions that preceded them.
The tension between Worrell and local law enforcement leadership, including Orange County Sheriff John Mina, has been evident for months. Discussions about Worrell’s handling of repeat offenders and her office’s policies have been points of contention.
Another case from March 2023 brought Worrell under further scrutiny. After the Pine Hills shootings involving suspect Keith Melvin Moses, Governor DeSantis’s Administration sought details about Moses’s previous criminal background and how Worrell’s office handled his previous charges.
In her responses to such criticisms, Worrell maintained her office’s dedication to upholding the law. She expressed concern about the politicization of tragic events and emphasized the importance of distinguishing between arrests and convictions.
DeSantis’s executive order suspending Worrell runs 15 pages, not including supporting exhibits. In it, DeSantis cites “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” as the basis for Worrell’s suspension. He then goes on to list a range of incidents that support the suspension, including allegations that she “systematically permitted violent offenders, drug traffickers, serious-juvenile offenders, and pedophiles to evade incarceration, when otherwise warranted under Florida law.”
The order also noted that Worrell had established a pattern or practice to avoid minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes, drug trafficking offenses, allowing juvenile offenders to avoid serious charges and incarceration altogether, avoiding valid or applicable sentencing enhancements, and limiting charges for child pornography.
It is the second time in a year that DeSantis has removed an elected state attorney from office. In August 2022, he suspended Andrew Warren, the top prosecutor in Tampa, who had vowed in a signed statement that he wouldn’t enforce Florida abortion restrictions. Warren challenged his suspension in both federal and state lawsuits, but the courts have ruled against him at both levels. Warren is appealing a federal ruling in the 11th Circuit.