On Monday, June 24, 2024, the Orlando Sentinel reported that an Orange County judge refused to release secret legal documents related to an ongoing dispute between the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office and its former leader.

The documents were requested by State Attorney Andrew Bain who had accused his predecessor Monique Worrell of unethical conduct in her handling of a 2020 grand jury case against an Orange County sheriff’s deputy. Deputy Bruce Stolk had shot and injured an unarmed fleeing suspect but was later indicted for aggravated battery by Worrell’s prosecutors. However, after Bain replaced Worrell following her suspension by Governor DeSantis, his office dropped the indictment, claiming Worrell’s team misled the grand jury.

In his June 14th ruling, Circuit Judge Vincent Chiu denied Bain’s request to release transcripts of the grand jury proceedings, saying the state attorney’s office failed to provide sufficient evidence to back up claims of misconduct against Worrell’s prosecutors. The judge said the disagreement between Bain and Worrell boiled down to “policy differences” as opposed to actual ethics violations.

While not taking a stance on the underlying policies, the judge noted it was beyond the court’s role to weigh the merits of different prosecutorial approaches. Both Bain and Worrell have hinted at continuing their feud, with Bain alluding to potential ethics complaints against Worrell and Worrell criticizing Bain for politicizing law enforcement. They are also set to face off in the November election for the state attorney position.

The case itself stemmed from a December 2020 incident where Stolk shot suspect Edenilson Urbina during a foot chase. His body camera video showed the shooting but lacked clarity on justification. An indictment was issued after internal review but was later dropped by Bain’s office, which said new evidence raised doubts about the deputy’s culpability. However, questions remain about the circumstances of the shooting and the shifting approaches of successive state attorneys. The judge’s denial of documents preserves secrecy over the inner deliberations that sparked this ongoing public dispute between political rivals.

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Source: Orlando Sentinel