Florida law enforcement agents searched the home of former state data scientist Rebekah Jones on Monday, carrying out a search warrant as part of an investigation into an unauthorized message that was sent on a state communications system.
“At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech,” Jones said via Twitter. She added, “They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint.”
The Florida Department of Health is the agency that fired Jones in May, after she helped create the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Jones claims that she lost her job after she refused to manipulate COVID-19 data to suggest Florida was ready to ease coronavirus restrictions.
A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that she “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the department.”
After being fired from her job as a geographic information system manager, Jones created her own dashboard for reporting coronavirus information called Florida COVID Action, offering data and information about testing options. A state Department of Health spokesperson suggested that Jones’ version included unreliable data.
As reported by NPR, the search warrant was authorized as investigators tried to learn who sent a chat message to a planning group on an emergency alert platform, urging people to speak out publicly about Florida’s coronavirus strategies.
There will be no update today.
At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech.
They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint.
They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.. pic.twitter.com/DE2QfOmtPU
— Rebekah Jones (@GeoRebekah) December 7, 2020
WFSU reported that the message stated, “it’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead.” The station cited the probable cause affidavit in their reporting.
The message continued, “You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
Jones posted a short video of the raid online Tuesday.
Jones claims that the agents pointed a gun at her and at her children but that is not shown on the video.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen denies Jones’ assertion, issuing a statement about the raid that states, “At no time were weapons pointed at anyone in the home.”
Swearingen also says Jones initially refused to answer her door and hung up on agents who called her about the pending search.
Jones calls the raid on her home an act of retaliation for her persistent criticisms of how Florida has handled the pandemic. She accuses DeSantis of being focused more on political concerns than stopping the coronavirus.
“They took my phone and the computer I use every day to post the case numbers in Florida, and school cases for the entire country,” she said via Twitter. “They took evidence of corruption at the state level. They claimed it was about a security breach. This was DeSantis. He sent the gestapo.”
Swearingen says the search warrant stemmed from a complaint by the Department of Health, “that a person illegally hacked into their emergency alert system.”
The court affidavit says the rogue message was sent to a state planning group, in which all users “share the same username and password.” It adds that investigators were able to trace the Nov. 10 message to an IP address that is affiliated with Jones’ Comcast account.
Jones has not been arrested or charged with a crime. But she has started a Go Fund Me page, asking for donations to pay for a new computer and “a hell of a good lawyer.” At the time of this writing she has raised over $130,000.
Photo Courtesy: Rebekah Jones