Florida state attorney suspended by DeSantis calls him out for

Florida state attorney suspended by DeSantis calls him out for

The people of Florida are once again feeling the consequences of Governor Ron DeSantis making
another anti-democratic power play. DeSantis has suspended a duly elected,
I want to say that again, a duly elected state prosecutor. Monique Morrell, an Orlando area
Democrat and the only black woman serving as a local prosecutor in Florida, was suspended by
the governor on Wednesday for quote, refusing to faithfully enforce the laws of Florida.
Coming from DeSantis, that’s really, really rich. He accused her of pursuing lenient sentences
and declining to prosecute certain charges. DeSantis replaced Morrell with Andrew Bain. Now, who is he?
A federal society judge. Already, with just a week on the job, Bain has stopped the office’s
diversity programs, the diversion programs which were intended to provide intervention for certain
non-violent offenders. Now, this is not the first time DeSantis has wielded his executive power
over local government to suspend a democratically elected official. Last year, Prosecutor Andrew
Warren was suspended in a similar fashion because Warren pledged not to prosecute people who were
seeking abortion care. This is the latest in a long list of similar actions that DeSantis
has taken to assume more and more control over the state of Florida. This laundry list includes
going to war with Disney, whitewashing history lessons, we all heard about that, eliminating
diversity programs in public schools, signing a slate of extreme anti-LGBTQ bills, and quietly
signing a very restrictive abortion bill into law. Joining me now is the Honorable Monique
Morrell, the Florida State Attorney who was suspended by Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this
week. So glad to have you. Thank you for being here. Monique, now that these diversion programs have
been canceled, they were central to your policy platform as a campaign. When you were campaigning,
when you were running for office, what does that do for the people who are in these programs
as they are suddenly ended and these folks have nowhere to go?
So thank you for having me. And yes, this is going to harm our community.
The policies that we implemented surrounding diversion are based in research. I spent 16 years
as a professor at the University of Florida College of Law, and there I was the director
of their criminal justice center. There’s a lot of research that goes into the fact that
diverting nonviolent people out of the criminal legal system builds stronger, safer communities.
So what we did within my first two and a half years in office is that we expanded diversion
programs so that we could make it easier for people who just needed a little redirection
to be able to get that without having their entire lives ruined by a criminal legal system
that is unforgiving, one that once you’ve been in it and there’s a mugshot surfacing of you,
it makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for you to get education, to find employment,
and the like. So our diversion programs were central to public safety in our community.
You know, Monique, as a former prosecutor, I can tell you that so much of our conversation
about crime and punishment is not data-driven. And the fact that you’re talking about research
being the impetus for why you devise these things as a candidate is so critically important.
But I do want to say that I feel like so much of this conversation is not only about DeSantis’s
action with respect to you, but also the disenfranchisement of an entire block of
black and brown voters. So let’s really run this down here. You won your election overwhelmingly
by about 60, with about 66 percent of the vote. Of the jurisdiction that you were in charge of,
about 60 percent of those voters are either black or Latino or people of color.
So when DeSantis makes this decision to suspend you because your politics don’t align,
isn’t it effectively invalidating the votes of those who chose you to represent them as their
prosecutor? It is another one of DeSantis’s many forms of voter suppression in the state of Florida,
in addition to gerrymandering the court districts and the voting districts, as well as
enforcing voting regulations against the individuals who were formerly incarcerated
who recently gained their right to vote under Amendment 4. DeSantis then enacted an election
police that went out arresting people, and this was in an effort to scare people out of voting if
they were unsure of what their status was, even though the supervisor of elections had confirmed
their ability to vote. This is just a multitude of ways that he is using to suppress the voters
of blue counties in the state of Florida that did not support him in the elections. And yes, those
counties include a lot of black and brown voters. Now, Monique, I’m going to ask you a question that
a lot of people would not. We know that DeSantis does not have the greatest record when it comes
to race. You are the only black woman who is a local prosecutor in Florida. You were removed by
DeSantis, but you were replaced by a conservative Federalist judge who also happens to be a black man
who ran against you and you defeated. Do you believe at some level DeSantis is sort of thumbing
his nose and playing in our face with respect to who he chose to replace you so that he cannot
have the argument of a racist being applied to him with respect to this move? So I just want to
clarify, I did not run against the individual who he’s chosen to replace me with. I ran against the
individual who is that person’s number two. And that person’s number two came in fourth place in
our race for state attorney, but now he is effectively running the state attorney’s office.
But I do want to get back to what you said about race, because essentially what DeSantis has done
here is he’s just swapped one black face for another. And I think that there’s strategy in
that because he believes that the minority community will be torn when we face off in an
election in 2024 between voting for me and voting for him. But this is bigger than just the fact
that I am black. It’s I’m black and what I stand for and what I believe in. And because just because
you’re black doesn’t mean you believe in the very substantiated truth about mass incarceration in
this country and the fact that we need to come together and do something about it. DeSantis found
someone who didn’t uphold those values, who didn’t understand the research surrounding mass
incarceration and the things that we need to do as a civilized society or the place that we call
free Florida to reduce mass incarceration. So, yes, there’s definitely, you know, race baiting going on
here from his part, but it is bigger than race. It transcends race.

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