Florida Cops Bust Into COVID-19 Data Tracker’s Home, Do Scary Cop Stuff
Florida police showed up at the Tallahassee home of Rebekah Jones Monday morning. There were 10 officers with guns drawn, reportedly executing a search warrant against a single data scientist. Jones said an officer pointed a gun at her two-year-old daughter, 11-year-old son, and her husband.
This is not uncommon cop behavior, but Jones is white so she must've really pissed them off. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement claimed it was investigating whether Jones hacked into a state government messaging system and urged employees to speak out about Florida's coronavirus deaths.
Jones is the state's former top coronavirus data chief, and she's accused the Florida Health Department of firing her because she wouldn't fix the numbers earlier this year so Florida could recklessly end its COVID-19 shutdowns.
Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis insists Jones was canned because "she didn't listen to the people who were her superiors." In a whistleblower complaint, Jones accused DeSantis of routinely giving false numbers to the press about Florida's COVID-19 rates. He also wanted the "state's public-facing website to show that the percentage of positive tests over two weeks were below 10 percent even if the numbers were higher." She refused and was tossed out on her ass.
Jones has since maintained her own, accurate account of COVID-19 numbers in Florida at FloridaCOVIDAction.com.
1/ There will be no update today. At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardwa… https://t.co/GXDz5hd6Wh— Rebekah Jones (@Rebekah Jones) 1607377881.0
Jones denies improperly accessing any state messaging system. Her government computer accounts were rendered useless anyway when she was fired. This isn't Minority Report where Tom Cruise is wanted for murder but somehow still kept his official clearance to everything.
According to investigators, an unauthorized individual illegally sent the following group text to about 1,750 government officials:
"It's time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead," the message said, according to the affidavit. "You know this is wrong. You don't have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it's too late."
The message was sent on November 10. It's now December 8 and at least another 2,281 people have died. When we last wrote about Jones in July, “only" 5,205 Floridians had died from COVID-19.
Jones told CNN's Chris Cuomo that the message wasn't from her and actually misstated the death count.
JONES: The number of deaths that the person used wasn't even right. They were actually under by about 430 deaths. I would never round down 430 deaths.
Investigators claim officials traced the message "to an IP address connected to Jones' house." During the raid, the police confiscated all of her computers, her phone, and several hard drives and thumb drives. She said, at one point, an officer had a gun pointed six inches from her face.
Gretl Plessinger, a police spokesperson, contends it was an amiable raid: The agents knocked on Jones's door and called her “in an attempt to minimize disruption to the family." Jones refused to answer for 20 minutes and allegedly hung up on the agents.
Although Plessinger didn't answer why the officers pointed guns at white people, Rick Swearingen, the department's commissioner, added in another statement, that “at no time were weapons pointed at anyone in the home." However, Jones posted video of the raid on Twitter that seems to dispute this claim.
Now that you're here: 1. @thecovidmonitor - will be updated with new computer soon 2. Imagine if the camera wasn't… https://t.co/QlxQpLdlXk— Rebekah Jones (@Rebekah Jones) 1607404725.0
Jones claims the police also seized flash drives that contained "proof that (state officials) were lying in January about things like internal reports and notices from the CDC," as well as "evidence of illegal activities by the state." She contends this is all information she had obtained legally.
She also accused DeSantis of orchestrating the raid on her home.
JONES: This is what happens when you challenge powerful and corrupt people. If he thinks this is going to scare me into silence, he's wrong.
DeSantis spokesperson Fred Piccolo told CNN that "the governor's office had no involvement, no knowledge, no nothing, of this investigation." That almost seems reasonable when you consider that DeSantis is very dumb. Still, this all stinks.
If you'd like to help Rebekah Jones buy a new computer and ideally avoid prison, here's the link to her GoFundMe.
[CNN / New York Times]
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."