A Florida state attorney whose suspension marks the second time Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has removed a top Democratic prosecutor from office because of policy differences is challenging the decision.
DeSantis failed to demonstrate that Monique Worrell was incompetent or neglected her duties when he suspended her last month, the former top prosecutor for metro Orlando said in a petition seeking to reverse the order. She filed the petition on Wednesday with the Supreme Court, where DeSantis appointees make up the majority.
“The order does not allege a single instance in which Ms. Worrell’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion violated Florida law,” the petition said. “To the extent the Governor disagrees with how Ms. Worrell is lawfully exercising her prosecutorial discretion, such a disagreement does not constitute a basis for suspension from elected office.”
The Associated Press sent an email seeking comment to the governor’s office on Thursday.
DeSantis’ office began investigating Worrell earlier this year after 19-year-old Keith Moses was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Spectrum News 13 reporter Dylan Lyons, Nathacha Augustin and 9-year-old T’yonna Major. The girl’s mother and Spectrum News 13 photographer Jesse Walden were also shot.
Shortly after the shooting, DeSantis’ general counsel said in a letter to Worrell that she had previously failed to hold Moses accountable for crimes he allegedly committed before the deaths. The letter noted that Moses was arrested during a traffic stop in November 2021 for cannabis possession. According to a police report, a deputy witnessed a gun being thrown out of the car window as it was being pulled over. The three occupants had ski masks and past firearm charges, including Moses, who was on juvenile felony probation.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputy charged Moses with a drug offense and not a firearm offense. The case was dismissed the following month after prosecutors concluded it wasn’t suitable to pursue.
DeSantis is one of a number of Republicans in various jurisdictions across the U.S. who have called into question decisions from Democratic prosecutors.
DeSantis last year removed State Attorney Andrew Warren, a twice-elected Democrat in Tampa, after he pledged not to pursue criminal charges against seekers or providers of abortion or gender transition treatments. He also had a policy of not bringing charges against someone for certain low-level crimes.
Worrell, who won office with two-thirds of the vote in 2020, has said she will seek reelection next year.