ORLANDO, Fla. — Rebekah Jones, the former Florida Department of Health employee who has become an outspoken critic of the state’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to turn herself in to authorities Sunday on a Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrest warrant.
It was not immediately clear what the allegations are against Jones, but FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger confirmed there was an “active arrest warrant” for Jones.
On Twitter Saturday afternoon, Jones said she would turn herself into Florida authorities, after she was informed of the FDLE warrant which has to do with documents she received or downloaded from state sources. She said she and her attorney were not told what exactly she had in her possession that was illegal or details of the alleged crime, but that she was only facing one criminal charge.
However, she said an FDLE agent did confirm to her that the new allegation had “nothing to do with” the basis of the search warrant that led to a raid on her Tallahassee home last month, which she and others criticized how police responded, some calling it heavy-handed and an attempt to silence a critic. FDLE officials have defended the execution of that search warrant.
“FDLE found no evidence of a message sent last Nov(ember) to DOH staff telling them to ‘speak out’ on any of the devices they took — the entire basis for the raid on my home in Dec(ember),” Jones wrote on Twitter. “Still, the state has issued a warrant for my arrest — even though the ‘crime’ is not related to the warrant.”
The search warrant was for her computer and phone, as FDLE tracked her IP address to the hacking of DOH’s emergency communications system in November. Someone used the system to tell employees to “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong.”
Jones has filed a lawsuit against FDLE claiming the search warrant and raid violated her constitutional rights, as well as state law, punishing her for speaking out. She said this new arrest warrant was the state’s latest attempt to silence her, but she confirmed she would not let the governor “win his war on science and free speech.”
Plessinger, the FDLE spokeswoman, declined to answer further questions about the nature of the arrest warrant. She said the agency would be able to provide additional information once Jones turns herself in.
Jones wrote on Twitter that she will do so Sunday evening “to protect my family from continued police violence and to show that I’m ready to fight whatever they throw at me.”
Jones was removed from her position as the manager of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard in early May. At the time, she told several Florida news organizations she was involuntarily removed from the job after she was ordered to censor parts of the data.
She has since set up her own platform with COVID-19 data and grown increasingly critical of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the transparency of state data.
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