Florida State Police Raid Home of DeSantis Critic

Ralph Ellis

December 08, 2020

Armed officers with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement served a search warrant Monday morning at the home of a fired state coronavirus data scientist who has said Gov. Ron DeSantis is trying to downplay the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rebekah Jones, who helped create the COVID dashboard for the state Department of Health, posted a video on Twitter of officers holding what appear to be drawn firearms inside her Tallahassee residence, where she lives with her husband and two children. She said officers seized a phone and computer she uses to post coronavirus case numbers.

"They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids," she wrote. "They took evidence of corruption at the state level."

An FDLE spokesperson denied officers pointed guns at anybody and said the search was conducted in a way to minimize disruption, CNN reported.

The FDLE said it was investigating a state Department of Health complaint that someone illegally accessed a state government emergency management system last month and sent a text message to more than 1,700 state employees urging them to speak out about the coronavirus crisis, CNN said.

An FDLE affidavit said investigators traced the Nov. 10 message to an IP address connected to Jones' residence, CNN said.

"It's time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead," the message said, according to the affidavit. "You know this is wrong. You don't have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it's too late."

In an interview on Monday night with CNN, Jones denied she sent the text message.

"I'm not a hacker," Jones told CNN, adding that the language of the text was "not the way I talk" and contained factual errors she'd never make.

"The number of deaths that the person used wasn't even right," she said. "They were actually under by about 430 deaths. I would never round down 430 deaths."

Jones used to work for the state Department of Health as a geospatial analyst and then a Geographic Information System specialist. Jones told Florida Today that she was fired last May from her job with the Department of Health because she refused to "manipulate data" on the COVID dashboard in a way that would make it easier for the state to reopen the economy.

At that time, the state Department of Health said Tuesday that Jones had "exhibited a repeated course of insubordination" and made changes to the dashboard without approval from supervisors, CNN reported.

Since being fired, she has continued to criticize DeSantis and post information about the coronavirus problem in Florida on her own COVID dashboard.

She told CNN on Monday the FDLE agents took her work computer and her phone, but not other family electronics.

"On my phone is every communication I've ever had with someone who works at the state who has come to me in confidence and told me things that could get them fired or in trouble like this," she said. "DeSantis will know soon enough that you've been talking to me, so be careful."

DeSantis spokesperson Fred Piccolo said "the governor's office had no involvement, no knowledge, no nothing, of this investigation," CNN reported.

Sources

Twitter

https://twitter.com/GeoRebekah/status/1336065787900145665

CNN. "Florida police raid home of former state Covid-19 data scientist"

https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/07/us/florida-search-warrant-raid-rebekah-jones-invs/index.html

USA Today. "Florida scientist was fired for 'refusing to manipulate' COVID-19 data, she said"

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2020/05/19/florida-scientist-refused-manipulate-covid-19-data-and-fired/5219137002/

CNN. Florida and Georgia facing scrutiny for their Covid-19 data reporting

https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/20/us/florida-georgia-covid-19-test-data/

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