Suspended Hillsborough state attorney Andrew Warren testified Tuesday in a trial that will determine whether he’ll be reinstated to his position, which he was removed from after publicly declaring he wouldn’t prosecute offenders who violated laws that didn’t accord with his progressive commitments.
DeSantis’s “public-safety czar” Larry Keefe notified Warren by email on August 4 that he was being suspended from his role for signing onto an open letter pledging not to enforce either Florida’s newly-passed 15-week abortion ban or any law prohibiting so-called “gender affirming care,” though no such criminal laws exist in Florida. (A rule banning hormone treatments and surgery for transgender-identifying minors was passed months after Warren was suspended.)
During the trial Tuesday, Keefe testified that Warren was “crossing the line” by stating he would not uphold Florida law.
“This wasn’t a one-off [problem]….I absolutely believed he needed to be suspended,” he added.
Keefe, a former U.S. attorney himself, further pointed to “rampant crime” in Tampa as proof that keeping Warren in his job any longer was a recipe for “chaos.”
“He pledged not to enforce the law, in a blanket policy,” the governor’s attorney, George Levesque, said Tuesday during the proceedings, arguing that Warren’s behavior was tantamount to neglect of duty and thus merited his dismissal.
However, when asked by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to point to a specific criminal law that Warren failed to uphold, Levesque was put in a tight spot.
“I concede, there is no criminal law that addresses transgender,” Levesque said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Warren and other state officials have insisted that there was never a comprehensive policy within their office that would prevent them from prosecuting abortion or gender reassignment-related cases. Warren did, however, sign on to a statement put out by Fair and Just Prosecution, a Soros-backed advocacy group that pressures prosecutors to adopt progressive policies.
Warren was originally notified of his suspension in the middle of a grand jury hearing in early August and left immediately to confer with his chief of staff in his office. There Keefe and two sheriff’s deputies met him and escorted him out of the building, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Before entering the courthouse Tuesday, Warren told a scrum of reporters: “There’s so much more at stake than my job. We’re not just fighting for me to do the job that I was elected to do. We are fighting for the rights of voters across Florida to have the elected officials of their choice. We’re fighting for free speech, the integrity of our elections and the very values of our democracy.”