Suspended Florida prosecutor battles DeSantis on first day of federal trial

Keefe, who spoke later in the day, however, provided one of the most illuminating testimonies, saying he was the « primary driver » in securing Warren’s suspension. His investigation began following DeSantis asking during a December 2021 meeting if there were any Florida prosecutors who were not enforcing the law.

Keefe argued during his testimony that Warren « crossed the line » for signing the abortion declarations – and another saying he wouldn’t sue anyone for providing gender-affirming care to transgender patients, even if the state has no criminal laws dealing with this. . Florida approved a rule banning gender-affirming treatment for minors several months after Warren was suspended.

« This was not an isolated case, » said Keefe, a former U.S. attorney who also spearheaded the DeSantis administration’s controversial relocation of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. He said those statements about Warren were part of a « very problematic » trend by the ousted prosecutor. « I absolutely believed he should be suspended. »

But Keefe repeatedly acknowledged on the stand that he never called Warren directly or communicated with anyone in Warren’s office to ask about the prosecutor’s statements. Warren and two senior officials still working in the state attorney’s office said there was no general policy against prosecuting abortions or gender affirmations and that they had no handled such lawsuits. Warren’s team even noted a written policy that tells prosecutors to assess individual cases.

Keefe, who said he conducted a review of Warren’s actions but not a real « investigation, » dismissed the written policies. Instead, he argued that Warren was a « state attorney whose approach to his work was harmful » and that he was hostile to law enforcement, an opinion based on conversations he has had with several people, including the current Hillsborough sheriff and the former Tampa police chief. .

Warren had adopted policies that recommended not prosecuting low-level crimes such as trespassing and disorderly intoxication or prosecuting charges stemming from initial encounters with police where a pedestrian or cyclist is arrested for an unrelated offense. criminal.

Keefe went so far as to suggest there were « rampant violence » and « rampant crime » issues in Tampa and that keeping Warren on the job would lead to « chaos ».

Florida’s Constitution gives the governor the power to suspend elected officials for various reasons, including neglect of duty and embezzlement or commission of a crime. Previous governors have mostly suspended local officials who have been arrested, but DeSantis has embraced a broader use of suspension powers. He first used it to remove Scott Israel, the Broward County Sheriff, from how his office responded to the Parkland shooting. Under the Constitution, a suspended official can seek reinstatement by the Florida Senate.

Warren, however, opted to fight the governor in federal court, a move that caught DeSantis’ own legal team off guard, according to depositions that were filed before the trial began. Most of Warren’s time on the stand he reviewed the operations of his office – as well as his stance on abortion and gender-affirming care and why he chose to sign statements released by a group defense called Fair and Just Prosecution. The organization presents itself as a group that brings together local prosecutors to promote changes to the criminal justice system, but has come under fire from conservatives for being linked to a group that receives funding from billionaire donor George Soros.

Warren defended the statement on abortion saying he was more concerned about outright bans on abortion and said he supported the one on gender-affirming care saying he was opposed to discrimination against trans youth.

Moments before entering the federal courthouse on Tuesday morning, Warren told reporters that “there is so much more at stake than my job. We are not just fighting for me to do the job I was elected to do. We fight for the right of voters across Florida to have the elected officials of their choice. We fight for freedom of expression, the integrity of our elections and the very values ​​of our democracy.

During opening statements, Warren’s attorneys cited documents and tweets from the governor’s staff, including one from then-press secretary Christina Pushaw, who posted the day before Warren’s suspension that stated: « Prepare for the liberal meltdown of the year ». George Levesque, an attorney with a private law firm who assists the governor’s defense, responded in his opening statement that Pushaw was taken to the « proverbial stake » by DeSantis because of her tweet.

Levesque argued that DeSantis had legitimate reasons to suspend Warren because his decisions to sigh statements on gender-affirming abortion and care amounted to “a functional veto” of state law.

The trial is expected to last at least two more days. Warren wants U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle back to work and places a permanent injunction against DeSantis’ executive order that suspended him.


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