TAMPA — Newly-appointed Hillsborough State Attorney Susan S. Lopez told her staff Monday that she will reverse some of the policies enacted by her predecessor, Andrew Warren, who was removed from office last week by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In a memo addressed to the “amazing dedicated public servants” of the State Attorney’s Office, Lopez wrote that she would immediately rescind policies enacted by Warren that called for “presumptive non-enforcement” of certain laws.
The action appears aimed at policies cited in the executive order DeSantis issued last week, which ousted Warren, the county’s elected prosecutor.
“It is my intention to get this agency back to basics,” Lopez wrote. “The legislature makes the law and we, as prosecutors, enforce it.”
DeSantis accused Warren of ignoring his duty to enforce state laws. His executive order included as exhibits copies of letters Warren signed in June with dozens of other elected prosecutors, pledging not to prosecute people who seek or provide abortions and condemning the “criminalization” of transgender people. The letters came from Fair and Just Prosecution, an organization that encourages progressive criminal justice reforms.
Lopez’s memo does not mention the abortion law. But it does cite policies against prosecutions that arise from police stops of bicyclists and pedestrians, policies of non-prosecution for certain misdemeanors, and decisions not to seek mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes.
Lopez worked for the State Attorney’s Office from 2005 until DeSantis appointed her as a county judge last December. The governor then appointed her last week to replace Warren.
“I told the governor that I know the men and women of this agency because I served with you,” she wrote. She encouraged the attorneys “to return to the basic principle of prosecutorial discretion,” based on each case’s facts and the applicable law.
“We will not surrender our ethical and legal duties to think tanks or advocacy groups,” Lopez wrote. “We will be prosecutors who partner with law enforcement, advocate for crime victims, and follow the law.”
The memo concludes with a summary of some things Lopez has done since being appointed. They included convening the office’s homicide committee to consider pursuing the death penalty in a murder case.
On Friday, the state filed a notice that they would seek capital punishment for Matthew Terry, who is accused of stabbing to death his girlfriend, Kay Baker, an elementary school teacher, near her Ruskin home. Warren had previously decided against seeking the death penalty for Terry.
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“All of that happens because from the first minute I walked back into this building, we are a team again,” Lopez wrote. “I am proud to be your state attorney and help lead this agency back to basics.”
Warren has said he will contest his removal from the office to which Hillsborough County voters twice elected him.