Rebekah Jones: Florida Licensed Data Scientist Goes To Jail And Tests Positive For Covid-19

Rebekah Jones has been charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices, the FDLE said. She went to the Leon County Detention Center on Sunday.

Jones was released from jail Monday afternoon after posting bail. Wearing a mask, she told reporters outside the prison that she had just tested positive for Covid-19.

Jones made no further comment as she walked alongside her lawyer to a vehicle.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Jones announced his intention to surrender to authorities.

“To protect my family from the continued police violence and to show that I’m ready to fight whatever they throw at me, I turn into police in Florida on Sunday night,” Jones tweeted.

“The governor will not win his war on science and free speech. He will not silence those who speak out.”

Jones was fired from the Florida Department of Health in May and has repeatedly criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

The FDLE said it was investigating whether Jones accessed a state messaging system without permission to call state officials to talk about the Covid-19 deaths.

“It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people die,” said a Nov. 10 message, according to the affidavit. “You know it’s wrong. You don’t have to be a part of it. Be a hero. Speak up before it’s too late.”

Officials traced this message to an IP address linked to Jones’ home, according to a search warrant affidavit.

On December 7, Jones’ home was searched. Jones filed a lawsuit, alleging that FDLE officials violated her First Amendment rights, deprived her of due process, and unlawfully seized her computers, cell phone and storage media during a search of his home.

The lawsuit says IP addresses are generally “spoofed” and refers to news articles that revealed that the system username and password of the message that triggered the investigation was publicly available on the site. Ministry of Health website.

Governor faces scrutiny

The Jones investigation comes as DeSantis comes under increasing scrutiny over its handling of the pandemic.

In April, the governor falsely claimed that Covid-19 had not killed anyone under the age of 25.
And last spring, the Florida Department of Health asked the Florida Medical Examiners Commission not to release the commission’s full list of Covid-19 deaths, the commission chairman told CNN.
Forensic scientists ”commission: state officials asked us not to disclose the figures for deaths from Covid-19
Despite several outbreaks of Covid-19 in the state, DeSantis has refused to allow municipalities to enforce their own mask warrants or stricter social distancing laws. This limitation of local control has been criticized by mayors on both sides.
An investigation by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found that the DeSantis administration was working to minimize bad news about the pandemic and spread disinformation.
Some spokespersons for the health ministry were ordered in September not to make a statement until after the November elections, and officials withheld crucial data on the spread of the virus, the newspaper reported.

Jones, who helped build the state’s coronavirus dashboard, has become one of the governor’s toughest critics, publicly alleging DeSantis was to blame for the growing death toll.

In May, state officials said Jones was fired because she “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination” and modified a state data portal without the input or the approval of epidemiologists or his supervisors.
But Jones said she was fired after refusing to tamper with Covid-19 state data.
Jones filed a whistleblower complaint in July with the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
After his dismissal, Jones released his own dashboard of Covid-19 statistics. She said she received internal files from people who worked for the state, including what she said was proof that state officials were “lying in January (2020) about things like internal reports and CDC opinions ”.

The evidence was on “a bunch of USB drives” that officers took away when they searched her house, Jones said. She said she also had documents to which she had legal access since becoming a government employee.

Legal experts have said the material could theoretically be used to target Jones’ sources if they violate inside information sharing rules.

The search warrant enabled officers to recover “any computer equipment” that stores or transmits data, including hard drives, devices, software and correspondence “relating to the possession, receipt, origin or distribution of data involving the facilitation of computer crimes. . ”

Florida labor attorneys have said state employees who allegedly disclosed internal Jones files could face disciplinary action or possibly legal issues – although they may be able to seek protection in under state whistleblower laws.

CNN’s Curt Devine, Kay Jones and Casey Tolan contributed to this report.

Sean N. Ayres