Leon County circuit judge Francis Allman denied a motion to drop criminal charges against former Florida Department of Health (FDOH) employee Rebekah Jones.
Jones is being charged for illegally accessing a FDOH computer system and sending a group message encouraging other employees to accuse DeSantis and the FDOH of covering up COVID-19 data regarding cases and deaths.
In March 2020, Jones helped create the COVID dashboard. By May 2020, Jones was fired from her position with the FDOH. Jones said her removal was for disobeying the state’s attempt to manipulate COVID-19 data. Governor DeSantis’ Spokeswoman, Helen Aguirre Ferré told the Miami Herald, “Rebekah Jones exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the department’s COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors.”
On November 10th, 2020, six months after Jones was fired, the mysterious group message was sent. It stated, “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.” After an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), officials were able to track the IP address responsible for the message, which was then revealed to belong to Jones.
After a search warrant was authorized in December 2020 to obtain Jones’ computer and other related software, Jones gained national attention through Twitter. She suggested that the execution of the search warrant was a violent attempt to threaten her and her family for exposing the falsely proclaimed COVID-19 conspiracy. The tweet, which is now unavailable due to Jones’ account being suspended, showed a video of officers with firearms entering her home where she later said were pointed at her children.
In response, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen commented on body cam footage taken by agents who participated in the search, “This video demonstrates that FDLE agents exercised extreme patience… No search warrant is routine or without potential officer safety issues regardless of the underlying crime. Agents afforded Ms. Jones ample time to come to the door and resolve this matter in a civil and professional manner. As this video will demonstrate, any risk or danger to Ms. Jones or her family was the result of her actions.” It was later concluded that the materials confiscated showed evidence pointing at Jones.
Although she expressed the warrant didn’t directly result in charging her, on January 14th, 2021, Jones turned herself in to authorities where she would begin facing the felony charge brought forth by state prosecutors.
If convicted of the third-degree felony, Jones could serve up to five years in prison as well as pay a fine of $5,000.
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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Rebekah Jones” by Georebekah. CC BY-SA 4.0.