State Attorney Bain touts new prosecutors, return of diversion programs in 100-day update

Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/TNS
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Orange-Osceola State Attorney Andrew Bain touted the hiring of new prosecutors and a return of previously nixed civil citation programs as part of his 100-day update since his predecessor was ousted from her elected post in August.

Many of the prosecutors hired in the last three months formerly worked for the office before taking jobs in judicial circuits elsewhere in Florida. His office was able to entice them to return, Bain told reporters Monday.

Joined by law enforcement leaders, Bain also reiterated what he said called “decisive measures to reinstate mandatory minimum sentencing” for defendants with felony records possessing guns, along with a policy announced in September sending police use-of-force cases before a grand jury.

“The people who work for this office do it because they love their community; they love their job. That’s the reason why they’re here,” Bain said.

Bain, a former Orange County judge appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace suspended State Attorney Monique Worrell, further announced the return of civil citation programs aimed at adults and youth accused of nonviolent misdemeanors. Those programs, a central point of Worrell’s policy platform when she ran for office in 2020, were discontinued Aug. 10 as Bain “evaluate[d] their effectiveness” at the beginning of his appointment but will resume this month.

His proposed replacement, called “Second Chance,” is also set to roll out this month in two phases beginning in December, but it’s not clear what that will entail. Bain further said his office will focus on expanding literacy efforts targeting youth put through the justice system, details of which he said will come in the coming months.

“The correlation between literacy and the criminal justice system is unfortunately strong,” Bain said. “That is why I’m working with organizations very closely … to bring literacy tutoring and mentorship to juveniles currently in our juvenile justice system. Once we identify the root cause of their literacy struggles, we can help them remove the mark of academic failure.”

Along with law enforcement, Bain was joined at Monday’s press conference with Jim and Jackson Cooper, the ex-husband and son of Shanti Cooper-Tronnes, who was killed at her Delaney Park home in 2018. Her husband, David Tronnes, was convicted of her murder in October, which investigators said was over a disagreement about expensive renovations to their house on East Copeland Drive. Tronnes was sentenced to life in prison.

In their comments to reporters, the Coopers thanked prosecutors for their handling of the case.

“My mom was a very hardworking and caring person. … I’m glad [Tronnes] got what he deserved and that he’ll never be out of prison,” Jackson Cooper said. Jim Cooper, his father, added, “It was about dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s and not making a mistake so we don’t have to relive this down the road on appeal. Everything was perfect.”

Bain’s 100-dayin-office update comes after Worrell was suspended, which, according to DeSantis’s suspension order was due to negligence in her handling of certain cases. Her suspension came after months of public feuding among her and Central Florida law enforcement leaders, who accused her of being “soft on crime.”

Worrell is currently suing DeSantis before the Florida Supreme Court in an attempt to get her job back, to which she was first elected in 2020. Her removal has been decried by liberal lawmakers and advocates, and five former state Supreme Court justices signed a legal brief supporting her lawsuit.

DeSantis’ lawyers have argued that the proper venue for Worrell’s reinstatement was the Florida Senate, but her legal team rebutted that the argument is “contrary to well established precedent.”

Not mentioned at Monday’s press conference was a pledge by Bain to review past cases dropped by Worrell’s office, including for gun crimes and drug trafficking cases cited by the governor. In her legal arguments, Worrell’s lawyers cited what she called “unsubstantiated” data on her handling of trafficking cases handled by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in 2022, which were mentioned in her suspension order.

Those cases “were reviewed and those suitable for prosecution are being prosecuted,” spokesperson Sydney McCloud said in an email.

Worrell has filed for reelection in 2024, while Bain, who records show has not filed, said he plans to run against her.