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Mark NeJame

Worrell case shows DeSantis’ true colors

Gov. Ron DeSantis is a genuine threat to America and to our Constitution. These words are neither hyperbole or sensational. They are extreme words which accurately describe an extremist who presents a clear and present danger to Floridians and to our country.

The suspension of Orange/Osceola County State Attorney Monique Worrell is the latest incident highlighting the demagoguery and anti-democratic leanings of this governor. He has usurped the will and choice of Central Floridians who elected Worrell.

It should make no difference if one is a Democrat or a Republican or whether one is liberal or conservative. The ballot box is where citizens’ voices are heard in a democracy. Worrell was elected by a majority vote in Orange and Osceola counties. Autocrats and dictators around the world suppress and mock free elections. That is what DeSantis has now done, joining the ranks of such despots who impose their will over the will of the people.

Worrell ran on a progressive platform and held true to her promises. That’s what we want our elected officials to do; keep their promises. All too many don’t.

Worrell was clear in her campaign that she wouldn’t tolerate police misconduct, especially in excessive-force cases. She would hold law enforcement who violated their duty responsible for their actions. She required law enforcement to bring solid and prepared cases to her office and not have her prosecutors seek to incarcerate, convict and make felons of those arrested based on insufficient evidence.

Central Floridians have every right to disagree or agree with Worrell’s policies and service after evaluating her time in office. However, re-electing her or not should be the sole decision of the citizens. A power-hungry governor who thwarts the will of an electorate and seeks to impose his will over theirs is abhorrent to a democracy. He is Gov. DeSantis, not King DeSantis.

I didn’t support Worrell when she first ran. I didn’t know her and supported a candidate with whom I had a long history and believed would do well. However, once in office I had the opportunity to deal with her on different matters and cases. As a result, I experienced a public servant who has the strongest of moral compasses. This is likely a foreign concept to DeSantis, whose moral compass seems to be guided not on character but on the latest polls.

Worrell and I agreed on some matters and disagreed on others. However, in each instance she was thoughtful, intelligent, accessible, fair, compassionate and firm. She did not exploit a case for her own political gain and made decisions on what she believed was right, even when not in her own political best interest. As a result, she gained my respect and support.

I have personal knowledge of DeSantis misleading the public regarding Worrell. For example in one of my cases, he attacked her, claiming she was light on crime when an alleged murderer with multiple juvenile arrests didn’t have any felony convictions. He failed to disclose to the public that no juveniles in Florida have “convictions.” Instead of convictions, Florida Statutes classifies juvenile offenses as delinquents. There are no juveniles with convictions in Florida.

Attempting to exploit these victims for his own political agenda, he deceived the public by failing to disclose that none of the prior felony arrests of the alleged murderer occurred while Worrell was in office. Every one preceded her even taking office. It is for these gross misrepresentations, among others, which mandates that Ron DeSantis’ authoritarianism be called out.

I recognize that some in law enforcement believe Worrell was too lax with prosecutions. Some critics are my friends who I respect, admire, and support. They have every right to have their voices heard and concerns listened to. That’s what we are blessed to do in a democracy with our Constitutional privileges. However we do not live in a police state where police control or dictate our voices or our choices. Any consequences that may occur from their voices and opinions should only be addressed at the ballot box, and not by authoritarianism and the despotic actions of Ron DeSantis.

Mark NeJame is a senior partner at NeJame Law in Orlando and a member of the Central Florida 100.

© 2023, Orlando Sentinel

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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