Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference in December 2020 at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara
Rebekah Jones, the Florida data scientist, last year fired by the Department of Health, said Saturday she would turn herself in to authorities Sunday after they last week issued a warrant for her arrest.
Jones, who worked on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, was fired in May after she said she refused to alter data related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
Florida authorities in December executed a warrant on her property, seizing computers, phones, and external storage drives after she continued to publish Florida’s COVID-19 data through her own dashboard.
“Bogus charges designed to silence and now jail me for being a scientist critical of the government,” Jones said. “That’s the textbook definition of #censorship.”
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In a lengthy Twitter thread Saturday, Rebekah Jones, the data scientist who said she was fired in May by the Florida Department of Health for refusing to alter COVID-19 data, said she was turning herself into authorities Sunday after they last week issued a warrant for her arrest.
The arrest warrant came about a month after authorities raided Jones’ Florida home and it’s not clear with what crime Florida officials plan to charge. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment Sunday.
An FDLE spokesperson told the told Florida Today the agency would be able to share more information about Jones’ case once she was arrested.
In another tweet, Jones said a law enforcement official told her lawyer that she could face additional charges should she speak to the media.
But Jones Saturday said that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had been unable to connect her to a message sent using the state’s emergency messaging service that called on state workers to sound the alarm on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ response to the pandemic. The message was the basis of the December warrant, which was executed on December 7.
Last month, Florida law enforcement officers seized computers, phones, and external storage devices, during their raid on her home. Following the raid, Jones sued the state for civil rights violations and relocated from Florida to Washington, DC, according to the Florida Today report.
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“The raid was based on a lie,” Jones said in a tweet Saturday. “Still, the state has issued a warrant for my arrest – even though the ‘crime’ is not related to the warrant, the scope of the warrant, and they didn’t wait for a third party to review confidential information on my computers.”
Last week, a judge in Tallahassee declined to rule over whether state officials needed to return Jones’ property seized during the raid until officials decided whether they planned to charge her in connection with what was obtained during the warrant on her property, as the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
“To protect my family from continued police violence, and to show that I’m ready to fight whatever they throw at me, I’m turning myself into police in Florida Sunday night,” Jones said in another tweet. “The Governor will not win his war on science and free speech. He will not silence those who speak out.”
In May, Jones, who worked on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, was fired by the Florida Department of Health. State officials said then Jones had been fired for “repeated course of insubordination” and her “blatant disrespect for the professionals who were working around the clock to provide the important information for the COVID-19 website.”
Jones, however, said her firing was the result of her refusal to alter COVID-19 data. At the time, Jones said her managers at the Florida Department of Health had told her to delete data that showed Florida residents had tested positive for COVID-19 as early as January. She also said she declined to alter data that would’ve made it appear that certain counties had met the criteria to scale back restrictions when they hadn’t actually yet met such criteria.
Following her firing, Jones continued to upload and release data through her own online dashboard. But in December, Florida authorities obtained the search warrant and raided her home. Jones speculated Saturday she believed a condition of her release from jail may be her limiting her access to technology, limiting her ability to share information.
“Bogus charges designed to silence and now jail me for being a scientist critical of the government,” she said. “That’s the textbook definition of #censorship.”
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