Data Scientist Rebekah Jones Gonna Sue F**K Out Of Florida Cops Who Raided Her Home
Two weeks ago, Florida police raided the home of former state COVID-19 data scientist Rebekah Jones like she was a Black woman minding her own business. Ten cops showed up with guns drawn, which is the only way they know how to use guns, and Jones said one of them pointed their weapon at her two-year-old daughter, 11-year-old son, and her husband. It was one of those mornings.
Jones is now suing Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, FDLE agent Noel Pratt, and another agent on account of how messed up this all was. The FDLE claims it was executing a proper search warrant as part of an investigation into whether Jones had hacked into a state government messaging system and urged employees to speak out about Florida's coronavirus deaths.
Jones helped create Florida's COVID-19 dashboard but was fired in May because, she claims, she wouldn't cook the books for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who allegedly wanted the data to more or less resemble the "This Is Fine" meme. She maintains her own, accurate account of COVID-19 numbers in Florida at FloridaCOVIDAction.com and she contends that the police bum rushed her house as an act of retaliation.
2/ They took my phone and the computer I use every day to post the case numbers in Florida, and school cases for t… https://t.co/JA8Adyfyzq— Rebekah Jones, MS, GISP (@Rebekah Jones, MS, GISP)1607377881.0
According to the complaint, filed in Florida's Second Judicial Circuit, the search warrant was "obtained in bad faith" and "with no legitimate or clear purpose." Jones argues that Swearingen, Pratt, and the other agent, listed only as John Doe, violated her First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as state law.
Agents entered Jones' home "with guns drawn, terrorizing her family," the complaint says. "They were there to execute a search warrant for her electronics devices; however the basis of the warrant was a sham to punish [Jones] for her protected speech." [...]
The complaint also argues that the COVID-19 dashboard Jones set up after her firing as a transparent alternative to the government's tracker has infuriated DeSantis because it "exposes the ongoing falsification, suppression, and misleading that are salient features of the State's data reporting about COVID-19.
The Nov. 10 message that led to the raid on Jones's Tallahassee home reportedly urged DOH employees "to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don't have to be a part of this. Be a hero."
Jones denies sending the message, which she said actually misstated the death count. It's always the small details the bad guys miss. Pratt claimed in an affidavit that the message was traced to Jones's IP address "through the use of investigative resources," but those resources remain fuzzy.
The complaint points out that Jones's IP address could have been “spoofed" so that's not the most reliable basis for a search warrant. I'm also just a guy who saw The Net 25 years ago and had a crush on Chloe from “24," but if Jones could hack into a government messaging system, couldn't she also hide her IP address? I guess there's nothing stopping her from being a stupid or lazy hacker, but that seems like a stretch.
Jones also puts this as modestly as she can, but she probably wouldn't need to send an anonymous message to a relatively small group of people when she's already “appeared on national TV news shows dozens of times and in every major media outlet nationally and in Florida." They have TVs in Florida. That's how the residents survive.
The complaint also cited recent media reports that revealed the username and password for the DOH's private messaging system that Jones is accused of illegally accessing was posted in publicly available documents on the DOH website.
WTF? C'mon, why even have the username and password? I bet the username and password was literally “Username" and “password."
"There is no possibility that access could be unauthorized when the DOH website, in seven places, describes how anyone can access the site with no indication that access is restricted in any way," the complaint says.
"It is not even theoretically possible that whoever sent the message committed a crime, so there is no possibility that a legitimate search warrant could issue to find out whether [Jones] sent the message."
Jones also claims that during the raid, one of the officers "without consent, authorization, or legitimate basis grabbed [Jones's] midsection, ran his hands up and down her ribs, and gripped her sides just below her breasts."
Swearingen tried to defend the BS search warrant by releasing an unredacted version of the Tallahassee police officer's bodycam video and an unredacted copy of Pratt's affidavit, which contained Jones's full address and phone number.
Not surprisingly, Jones has received harassing phone calls and hate mail. She's had to change her phone number and hire an armed guard. She's now planning to move out of Florida, which is always a good idea but it should've been on her own terms.
Swearingen continues to defend the “professionalism" of his sham raid because no cop is ever expected to apologize for anything until the heat death of the universe.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).