‘A victory for the truth’: Judge refuses to throw out suspended prosecutor’s Ron DeSantis lawsuit

MSNBC’s Joy Reid has commented that with all the victories Republicans have enjoyed in Florida in recent years, it’s questionable that Florida even qualifies as a swing state anymore. In Florida, Republicans control the governor’s mansion, two U.S. Senate seats and the state legislature. And The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson, a Never Trump conservative who supported President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, has described Florida as state in which Democrats “struggle.”

Nonetheless, Florida has a large, highly vocal Democratic opposition, and one of the Florida Democrats who has aggressively stood up to the far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis is Andrew Warren — a Hillsborough County prosecutor who DeSantis removed on August 4. DeSantis was obviously determined to punish Warren for declaring that he will not enforce an abortion ban in Florida or prosecute those who provide gender transition treatment for youths. Now, Warren is suing DeSantis.

On Monday, September 19, Judge Robert Hinkle, according to The Guardian, made two decisions affecting Warren. Hinkle denied DeSantis’ motion to dismiss Warren’s lawsuit, but he also denied a motion from Warren asking that he be reinstated as Hillsborough County prosecutor immediately. Although Warren’s suspension remains, Hinkle ruled that his lawsuit against DeSantis can go forward — and Hinkle wants to see Warren and DeSantis address their differences in court in the weeks ahead.

READ MORE: ‘Soros-backed’: Ron DeSantis suspends elected Democratic state attorney

Warren discussed Hinkle’s verdict with The Guardian, saying, “The governor now has to answer it to a court of law where facts matter and where you have to tell the truth. It’s a victory for the truth. A federal judge has ruled that the governor has to come into court to explain the reasons behind my suspension, to show that it wasn’t political, to show that it wasn’t in violation of my free speech rights, to show that it wasn’t in violation of the voters’ rights to have the state attorney of their choice.”

DeSantis, who is running for reelection in the 2022 midterms, has been an incredibly polarizing figure. The Florida governor is wildly popular among far-right MAGA Republicans, but many Democrats — from centrists to liberals and progressives — along with Never Trump conservatives and libertarians, regard him as an authoritarian who takes a my-way-or-the-highway approach to governance. DeSantis, critics contend, doesn’t treat Democrats or non-MAGA conservatives like the loyal opposition, but like the enemy.

DeSantis’ critics also regard him as someone who resorts to divisive political stunts — for example, sending planes of Latin America migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in order to thumb his nose at liberals in deep blue Massachusetts.

According to reporting in the Miami Herald, the company that DeSantis hired to arrange those flights to Martha’s Vineyard, Vertol Systems Company, has a strong connection to DeSantis ally Larry Keefe.

READ MORE: ‘This is a new low’: Ron DeSantis faces blowback after ‘trafficking’ migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

In an article published by the Herald on September 22, reporters Lawrence Mower, Mary Ellen Klas, Romy Ellenbogen and Ana Ceballos explain, “When Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration needed a company it could trust to carry out a controversial program to transport migrants to other states, it chose an unusual option. Although Destin-based Vertol Systems Company is in aviation, its primary business is training pilots for the military and providing helicopters across the globe. But the company was familiar to a key member of the DeSantis Administration: Larry Keefe, the state’s ‘public safety czar’ responsible for carrying out the governor’s anti-immigration programs.”

The reporters note that “before DeSantis hired Keefe, and before he was named U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Northern District by then-President Donald Trump, Keefe represented Vertol Systems in a dozen lawsuits between 2010 and 2017.”

“Keefe led the company’s litigation strategy, suing former employees accused of misusing funds, contractors suspected of stealing company secrets and a local lawn care company that ran over a wire connected to one of the company’s helicopters,” according to Mower, Klas, Ellenbogen and Ceballos. “The state has paid Vertol Systems more than $1.56 million to, among other things, arrange last week’s migrant flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, which sparked outrage, a criminal investigation by a local sheriff and a federal lawsuit by some of the migrants. So far, Keefe’s ties to Vertol Systems are the best explanation of why the state hired the company.”

Recent polls show DeSantis leading Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, a former Republican an ex-Florida governor, in Florida’s gubernatorial election. According to polls released in September, DeSantis is ahead of Crist by 7 percent (USA Today/Suffolk), 5 percent (Fox 35 Orlando/InsiderAdvantage) or 4 percent (Susquehanna). However, an outlier poll released by The Political Matrix/Listener Group on September 22 showed Crist ahead of DeSantis by 6 percent.

READ MORE: Watch: Tucker Carlson delivers xenophobic warning to Martha’s Vineyard residents in wake of migrant arrivals

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