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Fired Florida COVID-19 data scientist Rebekah Jones arrested and charged with illegal access to state computer

Fired COVID data scientist charged
Fired Florida COVID-19 data scientist charged with illegal access to state computer 00:50

Rebekah Jones, Florida's former COVID-19 data scientist, turned herself in to police after a warrant was issued for her arrest for illegal use of the state's computer system, CBS Miami reports. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced the arrest of Jones, 31, on Monday morning. The agency said she is charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices.

Court records show that Jones posted a $2,500 bond following an initial appearance hearing in Tallahassee on Monday morning.  Before turning herself in, she posted on Twitter: "Censored by the state of Florida until further notice."

Earlier, she wrote: "Insurrectionists planning attacks across the country this week and Florida is jailing scientists for the crimes of knowing and speaking."

In a statement to CBS News, Jones' attorney said she tested positive for COVID-19 after turning herself in. The attorney said Florida officials had previously threatened to arrest her in D.C. and extradite her to Florida, which meant that her decision to voluntarily surrender "saved the entire Eastern seaboard from being exposed to infection." 

Jones tweeted she was turning herself in to "protect" her family.

"To protect my family from continued police violence, and to show that I'm ready to fight whatever they throw at me, I'm turning myself into police in Florida Sunday night," she tweeted. "The Governor will not win his war on science and free speech. He will not silence those who speak out," she added.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials said Jones has been under investigation since early November after someone illegally accessed the state's emergency alert health system, warning 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."

Federal authorities raided her home in December, seizing her computers and other data equipment.

"Evidence retrieved from a search warrant on December 7 shows that Jones illegally accessed the system sending a message to approximately 1,750 people and downloaded confidential FDOH data and saved it to her devices," according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Right after the raid, she tweeted a video of agents entering her house and accused DeSantis of sending the "Gestapo" after her.  She said they pointed guns at her and her kids.

She has since filed a lawsuit over the search of her home.

The DeSantis administration fired Jones in May after she accused state health officials of manipulating data to suppress the number of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths. After her dismissal, Jones set up a competing COVID-19 dashboard to display data about the virus.

Former Florida health data manager sues Florida Department of Law Enforcement after officers raided her home 12:39
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