Fired Florida data scientist denies sending message that sparked FDLE raid at her home

Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — A data scientist who was fired by the state earlier this year for insubordination is going on the offensive after her home was raided Monday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

A video of police executing the search warrant was posted by fired data scientist Rebekah Jones on Twitter Monday. Jones said FDLE agents seized her cell phone and computer.

Jones, who used to manage the state’s coronavirus dashboard, told us Tuesday she had a rough night after the search.

“Well I didn’t get much sleep last night, obviously,” Jones said. “But I’m going to get a new computer and get back to work.”

Jones was fired from her job with the state in May. At the time, Jones said she believed it was because she was too transparent and refused to manipulate coronavirus data. Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, called Jones “insubordinate.”

According to the affidavit for Monday’s search warrant, agents were looking for computer equipment that may have hacked a Department of Health alert system last month.

“Our investigation began last month following a complaint by Florida Department of Health that a person illegally hacked into their emergency alert system. As part of our investigation, FDLE agents served a search warrant [Monday] morning at the [Tallahassee] residence where Ms. Jones lives after determining the home was the location that the unauthorized message was sent from,” an FDLE spokesperson said in a statement.

The FDLE affidavit says an “unidentified subject” accessed a multi-user account group and sent a group text.

“It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. 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 said, according to the FDLE affidavit.

Jones denies sending the message

“I didn’t even know there was a message sent. I didn’t even know what it said until yesterday,” said Jones.

Jones told us every time someone knocks on her door since the search, her kids get jumpy. In a series of tweets Monday, Jones said agents “pointed a gun in my face” and added, “they pointed guns at my kids.”

In a news release, the Department of Law Enforcement refuted Jones’ claim. But Jones stands by it and told us she has video of police pointing their gun at her children that she has not yet released.

“I was ready to be arrested. I put my hands up, I was ready to go. I did not expect they would point guns at my kids,” she said.

Jones believes the state is trying to learn the names of insiders who have been talking to her.

“I promised them that nobody would find out that they were talking,” she said. “I promised them confidence and I failed.”

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, a GoFundMe account set up to pay for legal fees has raised $153,000.

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