Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tampa Food Not Bombs Will Not Be Prosecuted

This press release came from State Attorney Andrew Warren's office.

Tampa, FL – Andrew Warren, the newly-elected State Attorney for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Hillsborough County, will not prosecute volunteers from Tampa Food Not Bombs who were arrested for trespassing for feeding the homeless earlier this year. On January 7, 2017, seven volunteers were arrested for trespass for distributing food to the homeless in Lykes Gaslight Square Park, a Tampa-owned park, without the required city permit. The seven volunteers were issued notices to appear in court before a judge, at which time the case was referred to the State Attorney’s Office for prosecution. The first volunteer’s appearance was scheduled for January 18, 2017. Today, the State Attorney’s Office filed a Notice of Nolle Prosequi for the first of the trespassing arrests, which serves as a dismissal of the case. The State Attorney’s Office will dismiss the cases for the remaining six defendants after those appearances are scheduled.

Regarding his decision not to prosecute, Warren said, “My mission is to make our community safer while promoting justice and fairness for everyone. Prosecuting people for charitable work does not further that mission and is an inefficient use of government resources. Furthermore, our goal is to view each case not as a person to be prosecuted but as a problem to be solved. That is why we have spoken with the Tampa Police Department, members of Tampa City Council, the Mayor’s office, and the attorney for Tampa Food Not Bombs in order to facilitate a resolution, and we commend them for working together to find a sensible solution. We will not prosecute the trespassing charges so long as the Tampa Food Not Bombs organization willingly participates in reaching a resolution to this matter and remains non-violent.”

Andrew Warren was sworn-in as the State Attorney for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, serving Hillsborough County, on January 3, 2017, after being elected on November 8, 2016. He was previously a federal prosecutor with the United States Department of Justice in Tampa, FL, and Washington, DC, and earned multiple accolades from the Justice Department and federal law enforcement agencies for his prosecution of complex white collar crime, including the 2013 Attorney General Award for Trial Litigation. A native of Gainesville, FL, Mr. Warren graduated from Brandeis University as a double-major in economics and political science before earning his J.D. from Columbia University Law School.

This is a good decision. It does not help Tampa's reputation to prosecute a charity organization attempting to feed the homeless. Sadly, downtown Tampa is filled with homeless people. The City of Tampa needs to address the housing situation for the homeless. There are simply not enough shelter beds for the homeless.

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