* Was elected in 2020 as the State Attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit Court
* Her State Attorney campaign received funding from George Soros.
* Supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement
* Believes that the U.S. criminal justice system is infested with anti-black racism
* Favors alternatives to incarceration for “non-violent” criminals
Born in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents – a mother from Jamaica and a father from Barbados — Monique Worrell spent her youth growing up in both Brooklyn and Orlando, Florida. In 1995 she graduated from St. John’s University in Queens, New York, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Worrell has lived in Florida since 1996, and she obtained a J.D. degree from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 2000.
From 1999-2001, Worrell worked as an assistant public defender for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit Court. From 2001-2018, she was a private-practice attorney with the Haughton Worrell Law Office in Orlando. From 2002-2019, she taught at her alma mater, the Levin College of Law, where she served as director of the school’s Criminal Justice Center. And in 2018-2019, Worrell also directed the Conviction Integrity Unit of Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit Court for then-State Attorney Aramis Ayala.
From 2019-2020, Worrell held the title of Chief Legal Officer for REFORM Alliance, a New York-based organization whose stated mission is “to transform probation and parole by changing laws, systems and culture to create real pathways to work and wellbeing … [i]nstead of keeping people trapped in a revolving door from probation/parole to prison.” Co-founded by hip hop mogul Jay Z and formerly headed by the self-identified revolutionary communist Van Jones, REFORM Alliance has established financial and ideological ties to substantial number of wealthy leftists. In the spring of 2020, for example, the organization teamed up with Madonna’s Ray of Light Foundation and film producer Cash Warren’s “Pair of Thieves” apparel company, to disseminate personal protective equipment – e.g, facemasks — to prison facilities nationwide in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic among the incarcerated. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey contributed millions of dollars to this and other, similar, efforts.
In 2020, Worrell, who had never prosecuted even a single case in court, ran as a Democrat for Orange County State Attorney in Florida. Her campaign was founded upon a “progressive” reform agenda that stood in opposition to the what her non-party-affiliated opponent, Jose Torroella, described as a “tough-on-crime” approach.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s infamous death during a May 25, 2020 altercation with police officers in Minneapolis, Worrell stated that she had already had “the talk” with her two oldest sons, about how, in her view, black people in the United States are routinely targeted and hunted by whites. “My 14-year-old,” she said, “wanted to walk to the 7-11 at the front of our subdivision one evening with a neighborhood kid, and I told him he couldn’t…. He was really disappointed and wanted to know why, I said ‘because Trayvon Martin.’” The reference was to the black Florida teenager who had been killed by a “white Hispanic” Neighborhood Watch coordinator named George Zimmerman in a highly publicized February 2012 incident. Not long after Zimmerman’s July 2013 acquittal on murder charges, Worrell became active in the newly established Black Lives Matter movement.
Speaking at an “anti-racism” and “anti-police brutality” gathering run by Black Lives Matter at the Orlando City Hall on June 5, 2020 – just 11 days after the death of George Floyd — Worrell told the protesters in attendance: “The [criminal justice] system is not broken. It is functioning exactly how it was designed” – implying that the system was in fact designed to abuse, disrespect, and even murder black people. Moreover, she exhorted her listeners to take action in a variety of ways. Some noteworthy quotes:
As the August 18, 2020 Democratic Party primary for Orange County State Attorney drew near, Worrell’s campaign suddenly received a massive influx of cash from a new political committee called “Our Vote Our Voice,” which raised more than $2.2 million on her behalf. That sum was derived mostly from two sources: (a) $1 million from the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group that had promoted a 2018 constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to convicted felons upon the completion of their prison sentences, and (b) $1 million from Democracy PAC, a political committee established by the leftwing multibillionaire George Soros. Fully two-thirds of the aforementioned $2.2 million was spent during the first two weeks of August alone — all of it on behalf of Worrell’s campaign in the primary. When Worrell was questioned about the significance of her Soros connection, she downplayed it, saying: “I don’t know him. Never had a conversation with him.”
Worrell’s candidacy also received the endorsement of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and the backing of then-California Senator Kamala Harris. Additional support came from leftwing activist groups like Voting While Black, The Appeal, and Real Justice, as well as from the popular musical artist John Legend.
Key elements of Worrell’s platform included calls for: (a) reductions in the use of incarceration for “non-violent offenders”; (b) an end to the cash bail system; and (c) aggressively holding police officers “accountable” for their transgressions. Worrell was easily elected as the 9th Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney in November 2020, winning 66% of the vote.
Worrell took office on January 5, 2021. Her official State Attorney website said that she had been “elected to bring reform to a criminal legal system that is fundamentally flawed, in order to achieve equity and to move our system towards justice.”
In a January 2021 interview with WFTV.com, Worrell was asked to define what she meant by the term “criminal justice reform.” She replied: “Criminal justice reform means that we acknowledge that our system has led to mass incarceration so we have failed policies of the ’80s and ’90s where we started this war on drugs. And what that war on drugs did was land a lot of people in prison for decades, some even life, for non-violent drug offenses, many of whom were addicts to drugs because the system didn’t do a really good job of separating addicts form dealers.”
On February 18, 2021, Worrell announced that she was implementing a new policy aimed at reducing the prison population of Orange County as well as the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic therein. Toward that end, this policy would entail the release of large numbers of “non-violent” criminals who suffered from underlying medical co-morbidities that placed them at “high risk” for severe complications if they were to contract the coronavirus. “When we give someone an incarcerated sentence,” said Worrell, “we could also be giving them an unintended death sentence … and we should take that and handle it with the gravity that it deserves.”
On June 18, 2021, Worrell issued a statement in recognition of the newly designated federal holiday of “Juneteenth,” which would mark the anniversary of the day when Union soldiers – on June 19, 1865 — notified the last of the remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas that the Civil War was over, and that they were legally free. Said Worrell in the course of her remarks:
“Just as the 4th of July marks America’s freedom from the tyranny of British rule, Juneteenth marks Black America’s freedom from the tyranny of American bondage. After centuries of chattel slavery, America took its first step toward extending the core principle of the Declaration of Independence — that “all men are created equal” — to every American. Today, our office has observed this day as a celebration of freedom for African Americans born and sold into slavery. While we are reminded of the long journey still ahead to build a more just and equal union, we must stop to pay tribute to the enslaved children, men and women who built our country, and dedicated themselves to … justice and equality …”
In May 2021, Worrell supported longtime Florida death-row inmate Tommy Zeigler’s request that DNA testing be used to determine whether his conviction for a 1975 quadruple murder – in which Zeigler’s wife, her parents, and a customer at the family’s furniture store had been summarily killed – could perhaps be overturned. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, however, maintained that: (a) Worrell lacked authority to consent to DNA testing; (b) Zeigler’s request for DNA testing did not meet the requirements of post-conviction law in Florida; and (c) Worrell had failed to properly notify the State Attorney General’s office before agreeing to make the relevant DNA evidence available for examination by independent laboratories.
On August 9, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he was suspending Worrell, whose jurisdiction had recently seen a string of high-profile violent crimes. As ClickOrlando.com reported on August 9, those crimes included “the February shooting deaths of three people in Pine Hills — 38-year-old Nathacha Augustin, 9-year-old T’yonna Major and 24-year-old Spectrum News 13 reporter Dylan Lyons — and now the shooting of two Orlando police officers who were conducting a traffic stop downtown.” Suggesting that those incidents could have been prevented under a State Attorney with a greater commitment to fighting crime, DeSantis said: “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. 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.”
When laying out the specifics of his case for the suspension, DeSantis accused Worrell of: (a) being reluctant to issue minimum mandatory sentences for gun crimes and drug-trafficking offenses; (b) too frequently permitting juvenile offenders to avoid serving any jail time; and (c) failing to use sentencing enhancements even in cases where they would have been wholly appropriate. The governor also claimed that Worrell had been too lenient when charging child-pornography offenders. “Prosecutors do have a certain amount of discretion about which cases to bring and which not,” he said. “but what this state attorney has done is abuse that discretion and has effectively nullified certain laws in the state of Florida. That breaches her duties that she owes to the people of Florida under our state Constitution and provides the basis for the suspension, and we can look to see all these different instances of people who have committed criminal offenses, victimize people, because they were not held accountable in accordance with the laws of Florida when they had the opportunity to hold them accountable.”
Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said of Worrell: “She has, by far, the highest rate and raw numbers statewide of no-files and failures to prosecute juveniles, and whether you are an adult or a juvenile, the reality in the Ninth Circuit currently is that nearly half of the time, Ms. Worrell’s office is not going to prosecute you if you commit a crime. […] Justice is not served and the public safety is not advanced by failing to seek to hold dangerous criminals in custody before they face trial and it is not advanced by failing to prosecute nearly half of the defendants committing crimes in your circuit. Ms. Worrell has made justice in the Ninth Circuit almost an arbitrary coin flip. She has failed to do her job and the citizens of the Ninth Circuit have and will continue to be victimized by defendants she failed to prosecute.”
In a similar vein, Polk County, Florida Sheriff Grady Judd — speaking also on behalf of Orange County Sheriff John Mina and Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez — stated: “I’ve talked to the sheriffs of Osceola and Orange and I can tell you unequivocally they fear for the citizens of the community because, despite their best efforts, no matter how many criminals you arrest, if the state attorney won’t hold them accountable, then the community’s not safe. Two Orlando police officers were shot in the face. You know why they were shot in the face? Because she [Worrell] didn’t ask for a pre-trial hold on a very, very dangerous person. So these police officers out doing their job encounter him. What does he think? Probably, ‘They’re going to take me back to jail. Well, I’ll just shoot them because heck, after all, I probably won’t be prosecuted. I’ll be let out again.’”