TALLAHASHEE — Outcast Hillsboro state attorney Andrew Warren told a judge on Tuesday he learned of his suspension via email.
The Aug. 4 email read, “You have been suspended.” Warren recalled testifying on the first day of a federal trial where he wanted to be reinstated. Warren is suing DeSantis, which is expected to be a rare opportunity to learn the inner workings of the governor’s office.
Before Warren took the stand, attorneys for both sides delivered hour-long opening statements Tuesday morning before U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle. He spoke about his own legal background and his office’s policies, recounting the moment he found out he had been pulled out of his two-time elected office.
Warren said he saw the email and walked out of the grand jury proceedings he was monitoring. He went to his office to discuss it with his chief of staff, Gary Wiseman. A few minutes later there was a knock on his door.
Keef was there with two sheriff’s deputies, one of whom knew that Major Warren was in charge of security at the courthouse. Keef introduced himself and handed Warren a governor’s suspension order.
Warren testified that he asked if he could review it, but Keef refused.
“He said, ‘You don’t have a chance to review this. You have to leave immediately,'” Warren said.
The sheriff major was apologetic, Warren recalled.
“I’m sorry, Andrew,” Warren recalled him saying. “You should go.”
He saved some files on his computer, grabbed his briefcase, and walked out the door without grabbing any of his other belongings.
The trial will continue at least until the end of this week, with testimony from several senior DeSantis administration officials. A spokesperson for the governor and an attorney were called as witnesses.
At issue is the governor’s motivation for the suspension, which some believe is an extraordinary excess of the governor’s powers.
The governor cited two letters from the National Advocacy group Fair and Fair Prosecution, in which Warren signed a pledge not to prosecute cases involving abortion or transgender health care. He claims he justified his belief that he would not prosecute certain crimes.
Warren’s attorney makes a simple allegation: the statement he signed was protected speech under the First Amendment.
The governor’s attorney countered that the statement was not protected because he was acting as a government official. “State Attorney, 13th Judicial Circuit (Tampa), Florida.”
DeSantis’ attorney, George Levesque, told the court, “He has promised not to enforce the law on a blanket policy. It constitutes a dereliction of duty and deserves a suspension,” he said.
The governor’s team had no instances of Warren refusing to prosecute abortion-related crimes. Also, the state has no crimes related to gender-affirming care-related books.
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Hinkle pointed out the discrepancies in one of his sole challenges to attorneys Tuesday morning and asked Levesque if he would cite specific criminal statutes that Warren had promised not to bring charges.
“I accept that there is no criminal law that addresses transgender people,” Levesque said.
The letter Warren signed was not his office’s policy, and some prosecutors in the office testified that they were unaware of the memo’s existence until DeSantis fired Warren.
Warren’s attorneys say DeSantis’ office would have known it wouldn’t outright deny prosecution of specific crimes if it had simply been on the phone. The office’s policy is to evaluate each case on an individual basis, and much of Warren’s testimony on Tuesday concerned procedures for changing certain policies.
Warren has adopted a policy of not filing lawsuits based on bicycle suspension or other low-level crimes. But that policy also had its caveats. For example, prosecutors could charge someone with driving with a suspended license or begging if they had a “serious public safety concern.”
Warren’s attorney claims he was targeted by DeSantis for political reasons.
Politics, or public perception, played a role in the decision, as the record of the incident shows.
In an early draft of the executive order suspending Warren, DeSantis downplayed references to abortion. with a blue felt-tip penDeSantis writes that it is “not an abortion violation in the first place” and elsewhere “puts before abortion”.
An early draft of the order, written by Keef, also mentioned billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, who was a conservative boogeyman.
Records show that his staff also drafted an extensive list of “advantages” and “disadvantages” for each of the governor’s options, including whether to make a statement against Warren or do nothing. increase.
One of the three benefits of suspending Warren outright, they write, is that “a left-wing prosecutor will be removed from power.” One of his downsides was that “political struggles are likely to increase Warren’s profile.”
Levesque said Tuesday that the memo containing the pros and cons was written by an “unpaid legal intern,” contained “clear legal errors,” and was dismissed by DeSantis’ top lawyer.
The night before Warren was suspended, DeSantis’ official spokesperson at the time, Christina Puchot, tweeted, “Getting ready for this year’s liberal media meltdown.” Pushot, who now works for his campaign, was “taken to the proverbial forest cabin” by DeSantis, Levesque said Tuesday.
Privately, a DeSantis spokesperson was rooting for Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson’s appearance on the show, but publicly tried to appear professional.
During DeSantis’ tumultuous press conference in August, they were unhappy with Kyle Lamb’s tweet. One tweet declared that “we” were suspending the “Soros-backed” state attorney. DeSantis’ chief of staff, James Uthmeier, texted Lamb to “stop all tweeting.”
“I know you’re trying to help, but my boss isn’t happy with this sensational act of overly legal proceedings,” Usmayer texted Lam. A copy is shown.
Warren’s attorney also noted Tuesday that DeSantis’ communications staff personally celebrated more than $2 million in “completely free earned media” from Warren’s suspension.
In recent weeks, lawyers from both sides have deposed 14 witnesses. Among them are the governor’s staff, prosecutors, Warren’s office staff, and county judge Susan Lopez, whom DeSantis named to replace Warren.
DeSantis himself resists the prospect of being called to the witness stand. Warren’s attorneys agreed not to call them the chief of their case. However, it is still possible that they will try to call him on the rebuttal portion of the case.
One of the witnesses not appearing live: Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister. The sheriff’s attorney last week asked for immunity from testimony. But given his involvement in Warren’s dismissal — he worked with the governor’s office and sided with DeSantis for the announcement that Warren was absent — in a lengthy deposition earlier this month. What he had to say will be presented as evidence in court.
During the deposition, the sheriff had lunch one day last spring with his friend Preston Farrier, who works for the Ferman Automobile Company, at Casa Santo Stefano in the city of Ybor, a Sicilian restaurant popular with politicians and city magnates. said he took
At the end of lunch, Farrier asked the chronicler if he would “jump on a quick phone call” with Keef.
Keefe asked, “Whether the state attorney had any trouble prosecuting the case.” The chronicler told Keef that he had already put together the cases that Warren thought should be pursued, and agreed to send them to Keef.
Testimony was scheduled to continue Tuesday afternoon and resume Wednesday. Even if the judge ultimately decides, the losing side is expected to appeal.