TAMPA — On a Thursday morning last month with a big day ahead — a planned news conference about a DNA break in two rape and murder cases — Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren instead found himself being walked out of his downtown offices by an armed major from the sheriff’s office.
As Gov. Ron DeSantis got ready for a news conference of his own to explain why he suspended Warren — the state attorney refused to enforce certain laws, the governor said — Warren was being relieved of the keys to his state car. The deputy at his elbow, someone he knew, asked if he needed a ride home.
Since then, it’s been a whirlwind month of telling reporters from CNN and the Washington Post that this was a political stunt by the Republican governor, and working with lawyers on a plan to regain the job of overseeing 300 prosecutors, investigators and staff.
Ahead of his opening salvo in a Tallahassee federal courtroom today, here’s a conversation with Warren last week about what came after the morning everything changed.
What’s life been like since Aug. 4? What have you been doing?
I’m spending my days fighting to get my job back and fighting to make sure this doesn’t happen again to other people.
I spend my days with my legal team, doing interviews with media and raising money to pay for it all. The governor is using taxpayer dollars to bankroll this. I’m having to raise my own money.
What’s been your reception around Tampa?
Empathy. There’s been a ton of support ... most people I talk to are outraged by this.
The people that have been so willing to tell me they didn’t support me and didn’t vote for me, but they realize this is wrong. I appreciate people’s candor.
What are your thoughts on what’s happening currently in the office? (DeSantis replaced Warren with former judge Susan Lopez, who has rolled back Warren’s policy on moving away from prosecuting certain low-level non-violent offenses.)
What’s most troubling to me is someone who’s never received a single vote is making decisions or is implementing what the governor wants. Either way, that’s not how a democracy is supposed to work.
How much media has there been?
It’s gone beyond the state. The governor has added this to a line in his stump speech.
How’s your family dealing?
This has been tough. My little one (8) understands democracy, but doesn’t grasp the nuance of the situation, obviously. My family’s been extremely supportive and my wife’s been at my side and is as outraged and concerned as everyone else appears to be.
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Are you planning to be in the courtroom Monday?