Andrew Warren is making new charges against Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober in his quest to topple him in this November’s election.
“After speaking with neighborhood leaders, voters, and the legal community, it’s clear that we’re prioritizing the wrong kind of prosecution,” the Democratic candidate says while introducing his “Families First” initiative that he says would target crimes that put children and families most at risk in Hillsborough County.
“When I’m State Attorney, we’ll change the way we go after domestic violence, increase resources for violent crime, sexual assault, and rape prosecution, and pay specific attention to crimes affecting children and families who are left vulnerable,” he adds.
Warren is a former federal prosecutor who quit his job late last year to concentrate on taking on Ober, a 16-year-incumbent who hasn’t faced a general election challenger in over a decade.
As he has previously stated, Warren notes in his latest statement how crime rose in Hillsborough County last year from 2014, with homicide and rape up 23 percent, armed robbery up 10 percent, and aggravated assault up five percent. “There are policies in place right now that make it harder to fight crime effectively,” he says.
Warren also alleges that local attorneys have complained about a practice in the State Attorney’s Office that requires victims of domestic abuse to take the initiative and follow up on their own case for the State Attorney’s office to be willing to pursue charges.
“It’s well known that domestic abusers threaten their victims to keep them from pursuing charges,” he says. “When the State Attorney isn’t being proactive, he’s feeding right into the strategy we know abusers use.”
And he notes the discovery in 2015 of nearly 500 untested rape kits in Hillsborough County sitting on shelves, noting that Pinellas County didn’t have a single untested kit.
But it’s hardly a Hillsborough problem alone, as a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report from January found more than 7,000 untested kits in Miami-Dade or Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“Mr. Warren’s statement once again demonstrates his inexperience and lack of understanding of the facts, our state system, and the practice of criminal law in Hillsborough County,” Ober replied in a statement on Wednesday. “It appears that his goal is to have an office that is as effective and highly regarded as the one I have had for the past sixteen years.”
He did not elaborate on any of Warrens’ specific charges.
In an interview on Monday, Ober said “the results of what we’ve done here speak for themselves” regarding his tenure at the State Attorney’s office.
“I still have the passion to do this, because it’s an educational event and I have so many young people come into the office, and we can do good things to change behavior who get sideways, the youth and what not. I’m just excited to still be here,” he said.