Governor DeSantis suspends State Attorney after two officers shot in Orlando by released child rapist

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the suspension of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell on August 9th following a number of questionable prosecutorial decisions that ultimately led to two Orlando Police officers being non-fatally shot earlier in August.

Worrell was reportedly enduring months of scrutiny in the lead up to her suspension, apparently engaging in a bit of damage control when defending her efforts surrounding high-profile cases in her district such as a triple homicide in Pine Hills this past February where a nine-year-old was among the victims.

However, the August 4th shooting of two Orlando Police officers seems to have served as the proverbial nail in the coffin for Worrell, as critics have argued that the now-deceased gunman should have been in jail rather than on the streets during the time of the incident.

Authorities identified the gunman from the August 4th incident as 28-year-old Daton Viel, an individual who reportedly totes an extensive criminal history and whose most recent arrest was in March in connection with the rape of a 14-year-old girl that occurred in December of 2022. At the time of the alleged rape, Viel was also on probation for charges such as aggravated battery and arson.

While the terms of Viel’s probation aren’t clear, which the original charges stemmed from Georgia and were transferred to Florida under interstate compact, judges typically can revoke one’s probation if they’re charged with a new offense while under supervision – and certainly a prosecutor’s office can recommend such.

Yet, Viel was able to post bond on April 14th after his bail was set at slightly over $125K, meaning he likely only needed to shell out approximately 10% of the bail amount to get out of jail.

Thus, Viel was out on the streets at the time of the infamous traffic stop that led to two officers being seriously injured. Meanwhile, days after SWAT team members fatally shot Viel following the original incident, Worrell seemingly defended Viel’s ability to obtain bond in April, even going so far as to suggest his bail amount was too high.

“That is an unusually high bond amount," she said at the time. "Here in Orange County, bond is determined by a bond schedule and by the court. It is not set or determined by the state attorney’s office.”

Worrell refused to accept any culpability insofar as what her office could’ve done to prevent the shootout altogether, saying, “All of our agencies are doing the very best they can to handle a lot of cases with very limited resources. Hindsight is 20-20. There are any number of things that can be done on any given day that could make an outcome different. In this case, those things weren’t done. And here we are today.”

The seemingly blasé and cavalier attitude Worrell harbored regarding the perceived missteps stemming from her office clearly didn’t leave a good impression on Governor DeSantis, with the governor delivering some very critical remarks in tandem with the announcement her Worrell’s suspension.

“One’s political agenda cannot trump this solemn duty," he said. "Refusing to faithfully enforce the laws of Florida puts our communities in danger and victimizes innocent Floridians. Accordingly, I am today announcing the suspension of State Attorney Monique Morrell from the Ninth Judicial Circuit, effective immediately. I’m appointing Judge Andrew Bain to take over as state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit.”

The Florida governor accused Worrell of a soft-on-crime pattern of behavior, pointing to abstaining from recommending/issuing mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug offenses, habitually offering juvenile offenders alternatives to incarceration as well as sidestepping applicable sentencing enhancements, and allegedly being lenient on charges in cases involving child pornography.

Governor DeSantis summed up Worrell’s record as a pattern of abusing her office’s prosecutorial discretion, saying, “Prosecutors do have a certain amount of discretion about which cases to bring and which not, but what this state attorney has done is abuse that discretion and has effectively nullified certain laws in the state of Florida.”

As for the two officers injured in the August 4th incident, one of the unnamed officers was reportedly released from the hospital on August 8th, whereas the second officer remains hospitalized but is expected to recover.
 
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