Inside Ron DeSantis’s Politicized Removal of an Elected Prosecutor


A memo that Ms. Lopez sent out days later mirrored that plan, saying, “The legislature makes the law and we, as prosecutors, enforce it.” (She testified that she did not recall consulting with anyone other than her chief of staff.)

Two aides to the governor were dispatched to the state attorney’s office in Hillsborough to “help make sure there’s no funny business over there,” Savannah Kelly Jefferson, director of external affairs, wrote in a text message to her staff.

Mr. Keefe, who had stuck around at the state attorney’s office, told Melanie Snow-Waxler, the office’s chief communications officer, to cancel Mr. Warren’s news conference on the cold cases, she said in an interview. The office said its chief of staff had made the decision.

He listened in on a speaker phone as she called one murder victim’s aunt to tell her not to come.

“I was confused. I didn’t know what was going on,” Ms. Snow-Waxler, who was fired soon after for reasons that are in dispute, said in the interview. “This is not someone who has been your boss, but it’s not like I was given an option. It was an order.”

A former DeSantis spokesman, Fred Piccolo, was brought in as a communications consultant for the state attorney’s office. In an interview, Mr. Piccolo said his job included keeping the prosecutor’s office on the same page with the governor’s office in publicly discussing Mr. Warren’s suspension. In a text message to colleagues, Ms. Fenske said she would lean on Mr. Piccolo to push back on Mr. Warren’s contention that his suspension was invalid: “We’ll put the nail in the coffin.”

Six days later, as the controversy continued to generate headlines and Mr. Warren publicly blasted his dismissal, the Hillsborough County state attorney’s office received a curious piece of correspondence from the governor’s office, documents from a public records request show.

It was from Mr. Treadwell, the governor’s deputy general counsel, making his first request for information from the prosecutor’s office that might reveal whether Mr. Warren had done anything wrong.

Jonathan Swan and Frances Robles contributed reporting.