FORT MYERS, Fla. – Rebekah Jones, the fired Florida Department of Health data scientist-turned-whistleblower, said Saturday she will be “turning herself in” to Florida police on Sunday after a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger confirmed there is an active arrest warrant for Jones.
“FDLE agents have been working with her attorney to have her turn herself in,” Plessinger said. “Our case remains active. Once she turns herself in, we’ll be able to provide additional information.”
In a series of tweets Saturday, Jones alleged the state failed to connect her to a message sent on the state’s emergency management system last year calling on civil servants to blow the whistle on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ COVID-19 pandemic response. That had been the basis for a search warrant executed by armed FDLE agents of Jones’ home on Dec. 7 where they seized phones, computers and memory drives.
“The state has issued a warrant for my arrest – even though the ‘crime’ is not related to the warrant,” Jones tweeted Saturday, referring to the December search warrant.
“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. The Governor will not win his war on science and free speech. He will not silence those who speak out,” she tweeted.
Jones has been a frequent critic of DeSantis since she was fired last May for what she said was refusing to doctor the state’s COVID-19 numbers. State officials said she was fired for insubordination. Following the raid she moved to Washington, D.C., last week, citing the trauma of the raid on her family and fears for their security.
In her tweets she claims that “FDLE found no evidence of a message sent last Nov. to DOH staff telling them to ‘speak out’ on any of the devices they took – the entire basis for the raid on my home.”
The FDLE’s warrant affidavit was heavily criticized by legal and digital rights experts for being vague, overreaching and based on poor evidence.
“The warrant was based on a lie,” Jones said, alleging that instead it was merely a means to seize her computer hardware and phones and let the state see who she was communicating with.
“Police did find documents I received/downloaded from sources in the state, or something of that nature… it isn’t clear at this point what exactly they’re saying I had that I shouldn’t have had, but an agent confirmed it has nothing to do with the subject of the warrant,” she said.
The FDLE’s Plessinger in a follow-up email to a reporter said, “I can say agents analyzed forensic evidence that was within the scope of the December search warrant.”
Jones sued the state for violating her civil rights following the raid and filed a motion to have the FDLE return the seized equipment on the basis they were not investigating a crime. Indeed no charges were filed against Jones before the raid or in the weeks since.
A judge earlier this week put off a decision on whether to return Jones’ property, saying a decision couldn’t be made until it was clear whether Jones was being charged.
“They didn’t find proof of anything related to the warrant, so they invented something new to come after me for in retaliation,” Jones tweeted.
After being ousted from her role managing the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, Jones created her own competing information portal. She has also used her platform, and online following, to criticize DeSantis and actions by Florida’s DOH.
Follow Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon on Twitter: @alemzs