Florida COVID-19 researcher says home was raided for ‘speaking truth to power’

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement served a search warrant on Monday at the home of the former data scientist who claimed she was wrongly-fired because she wouldn’t manipulate coronavirus data, an FDLE spokesperson confirmed.

Rebekah Jones, who designed and managed the Florida Department of Health’s coronavirus dashboard, was fired in May. At the time, Jones said she believed it was because she was too transparent. Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, called Jones “insubordinate.”

Jones tweeted a video Monday evening saying “state police” showed up at her home Monday morning and took “all my hardware and tech.” In her tweet, Jones says agents were serving a warrant on her computer after the Department of Health filed a complaint.

An FDLE spokesperson said that warrant stemmed from an investigation involving the alleged unauthorized use of a Department of Health emergency alert system.

According to an affidavit, Florida investigators say on Nov. 10 someone gained access to a “multi-user account group” and send a group text stating:

“(sic)it’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”

The message went out to approximately 1,750 recipients before the software vendor could shut it down, the document says. The message originated from StateESF8.Planning, Florida’s Emergency Support Function for Public Health and Medical. All users log in with the same username and password, according to the affidavit, but prosecutors say they traced the message to Rebekah Jones after “investigative resources” revealed her IP address.

The FDLE addressed the raid in a statement, saying:

“Our investigation began last month following a complaint by Florida Department of Health that a person illegally hacked into their emergency alert system.  As part of our investigation, FDLE agents served a search warrant this morning at the Centerville Court residence where Ms. Jones lives after determining the home was the location that the unauthorized message was sent from.”

The statement went on to say that “Ms. Jones refused to come to the door for 20 minutes” before allowing agents inside the Tallahassee home.

Jones says in her tweet that agents, “pointed a gun in my face” and added, “they pointed guns at my kids.”

Ron Filipowski, a Republican on the 12th Circuit Judicial Nomination Commission, announced his resignation on Twitter Tuesday, calling the raid on Jones’ home “unconscionable.”

“I no longer wish to serve the current government of Florida in any capacity,” Filipowski wrote.

After being fired from the Department of Health, Jones launched her own coronavirus dashboard and later launched a national dashboard to track school-related cases. Jones posted a second tweet saying agents took her phone and computer she uses to post that data each day.

She also claimed the agents “took evidence of corruption at the state level.”

“This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly,” she wrote. “This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.”

A spokesperson said the investigation into the situation is active.

“As in all cases, our role is to determine the facts of what happened and a state attorney determines whether or not charges are filed,” the spokesperson said.

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