Who is Monique Worrell, the Florida state attorney DeSantis suspended?

ORLANDO, Fla.Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Ninth Circuit State Attorney Monique Worrell Wednesday, the culmination of months of back-and-forth between DeSantis and Worrell over her approach to the office of chief prosecutor.

The governor accused Worrell of dereliction of duty in prosecuting cases.

“One’s political agenda cannot trump this solemn duty. Refusing to faithfully enforce the laws of Florida puts our communities in danger and victimizes innocent Floridians,” DeSantis said.

In response, Worrell lambasted the suspension as a political attack by DeSantis.

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“There used to be a standard that I would have had to been criminally prosecuted for something neglecting my duties, meaning that I don’t show up for work and do my job, or that I had some sort of an illness that prevented me from doing my job,” Worrell said in response Wednesday. “But under this tyranny, elected officials can be removed simply for political purposes and by a whim of the governor and no matter how you feel about me, you should not be OK with that.”

Worrell, a Democrat who was elected to lead the office that serves Orange and Osceola counties in 2020, has a long legal career focused on criminal justice and reform, and she campaigned on utilizing that background in her position as state attorney.

Worrell got her law degree from the University of Florida in 2000. She spent two years as an assistant public defender in the Ninth Circuit before moving into private practice, focusing on criminal and public interest law.

While practicing law, she also was a professor and director of the Criminal Justice Center at the University of Florida.

Then in 2018 Worrell was named director of the Ninth Circuit’s Conviction Integrity Unit, created by previous State Attorney Aramis Ayala to prevent, identify and resolve false convictions. There are only five of these units in the state.

[WATCH: 2020 interview with Worrell on her criminal justice beliefs]

She left that in July 2019 to become chief legal officer for REFORM Alliance, a group founded by Meek Mill and Jay-Z to reform probation and parole laws in the country.

In March 2020, Worrell threw her hat in the ring to succeed Ayala, who decided not to run for re-election. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Ayala was already supporting chief assistant state attorney Deborah Barra in the race to replace her. But when Worrell got in the race, Ayala switched her support to her, calling Worrell “one of my closest friends.”

Worrell’s campaign earned the support of liberals and criminal justice reform advocates across the country. She got endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and future Vice President Kamala Harris. Thousands of donations came in from around the country, including a nearly $60,000 donation for research and polling from Justice and Public Safety PAC, a criminal justice reform group that is largely funded by philanthropist George Soros, according to state records.

Recording Star John Legend, who made waves when he campaigned for Amendment 4 in 2018 to restore voting rights to some convicted felons, also announced his support for Worrell a month before the race’s Democratic primary, saying Worrell believed “the criminal legal system harms victims, tears families apart, and fails to make our communities safer.”

Worrell won a divided Democratic primary in August 2020 with 43.4% of the vote, beating former Judge Belvin Perry, Barra, and former prosecutor Ryan Williams.

She went on to beat attorney Jose Torroella, a no-party affiliate candidate, in the November 2020 election with 65.7% of the vote. She became the second African American state attorney in Florida, and the first of Caribbean descent, according to her official biography.

In March, Worrell announced plans to run for re-election in 2024.

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