State Attorney defends office amid DeSantis' criticism: 'Shameful that this event is being politicized'

Florida State Attorney Monique Worrell is defending her team following criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis after last week's mass shooting in Pine Hills that killed a 38-year-old woman, a 9-year-old girl, and a TV reporter with Spectrum News 13, and injured a TV photographer and the girl's mother.

Questions were raised after Orange County Sheriff John Mina said the suspect, Keith Melvin Moses, had a lengthy criminal record, most of which happened while he was a juvenile.  Attorney Worrell said the suspect's only adult charge was for cannabis and that because it was such a little amount, prosecutors couldn't bring the case to court.

"You have to hold people accountable," Gov. DeSantis said Monday during a press conference. "I know the district attorney, state attorney, in Orlando thinks that you don't prosecute people and that's the way that you somehow have had a better community. That does not work."

On Tuesday, Worrell defended her team.

"It’s shameful that this event is being politicized. The men and women in this office work hard every day to do their best to protect this community. They don’t do it for fame, and they certainly don’t do it for fortune and to say that we don’t prosecute cases is an attack on my prosecutors that’s completely unfounded," she said.

Attorney Worrell also defended her team's handling of Moses' alleged previous juvenile charges.

"The thought that this office handled those cases poorly is not based in fact. I reviewed every single case that Mr. Moses had in the 9th judicial circuit, and I am proud to say that each of those cases were properly researched, they were properly vetted, and they were properly documented and I’m not hiding from the decisions that were made," she said.

As for Moses' adult charge on possession of marijuana, Worrell explained her office's limitations:

"That case wasn’t prosecuted not just because we didn’t want to prosecute it; it was 4.6 grams of marijuana. That is below the legal limit that Florida Department of Law Enforcement will test based on recent laws. So we did not have a legal basis to pursue charges in that case," she said.

How to you fix the issue? Worrell said it comes down to more tools and resources, as well as programs to prevent recidivism.

"We’re being charged with the responsibility of knowing whether or not an individual will be violent in the future but we haven’t been given any tools to help us know whether or not that’s accurate,"she said.

She said prosecutors need more resources with recruitment and retention, a reasonable salary increase, and juvenile programs that conduct mental health evaluations, which would give prosecutors possible insight into whether or not a juvenile could be violent in the future.

She charged that it's up to the Florida Legislature and Gov. DeSantis to help with those resources.

"I’ve identified the problems that exist and I have provided to the legislature and to the governor ways that we can fix those problems and those proposals have fallen on deaf ears," she said.