TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The former state data scientist whose home was recently searched by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is now suing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for damages.
In the lawsuit, Rebekah Jones denies sending a message from a Florida Department of Health emergency alert system and instead suggests she was targeted by state law enforcement for political reasons.
FDLE executed a search warrant on Jones’ home earlier this month and took her computer, hard drives and cell phone. They were collecting evidence related to the unauthorized use of a DOH emergency alert system, but in the lawsuit filed Monday, Jones contends she was set up.
“They can’t stand the fact that she’s telling the truth and they’re trying to suppress it,” said attorney Richard Johnson, who represents Jones.
Johnson said his client’s IP address could have easily been spoofed and the login credentials for the alert system were available online. “It could have been anybody in the world with an internet connection and a computer,” he said.
The lawsuit also suggests FDLE had an incentive to target Jones because of disparaging comments Gov. Ron DeSantis made about her. Jones was fired in May over what she characterizes as a dispute over which data related to the pandemic should be released to the public. DeSantis, meanwhile, said Jones was dismissed for not listening to her superiors.
“We also believe, but haven’t been able to prove yet, that they’ve had some private communications that may have led to the raid,” Johnson said.
Last week, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen vehemently denied any political conspiracy, saying he had no conversations with DeSantis about the agency’s investigation. The agency later released an updated statement in response to Jones’ lawsuit:
“As I have said before, I am proud of the professionalism shown by our FDLE agents as they served a legal search warrant on the residence of Rebekah Jones. Our criminal investigation continues, and while I have not seen this lawsuit, I believe the facts will come out in court.”
The complaint seeks an excess of $30,000 in damages, but Jones’ attorney told us the lawsuit’s primary purpose is to force FDLE to return the items it confiscated.
Jones has raised more than $500,000 between two GoFundMe accounts to cover her legal fees.