State Watch

Data scientist who accused Florida of manipulating coronavirus data to turn herself in on warrant

A Florida data scientist who accused the state of manipulating coronavirus data announced she would turn herself in on Sunday night after authorities issued an arrest warrant. 

Rebekah Jones, one of the data scientists who helped make Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard, declared on Twitter that she would surrender to authorities about a month after law enforcement raided her home.

“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,” Jones tweeted. “The Governor will not win his war on science and free speech. He will not silence those who speak out.”

Jones has claimed that she was removed from her position in May because she refused to “manually change data” to support the argument for lifting coronavirus restrictions, but a spokeswoman for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) accused Jones in May of having “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination” and “blatant disrespect.”

Police allege that she used a Department of Health communications platform to send a Nov. 10 text telling others it was “time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead.” Law enforcement acted on a search warrant on Dec. 7 to investigate the text, which Jones has denied sending. 

On Twitter, Jones claimed that a warrant for her arrest was made on a charge not related to the raid, saying there was no evidence that she sent the group text.

“They didn’t find proof of anything related to the warrant, so they invented something new to come after me for in retaliation,” she said.

“However, police did find documents I received/downloaded from sources in the state, or something of that nature … it isn’t clear at this point what exactly they’re saying I had that I shouldn’t have had, but an agent confirmed it has nothing to do with the subject of the warrant,” Jones said. “The raid was based on a lie.”

The data scientist also said an agent told her lawyer that officials could add more charges if she spoke out against police. 

The governor’s office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FDLE confirmed to NBC News Sunday that agents were cooperating with Jones’s attorneys and would release more information after she’s in custody. 

Jones has filed a lawsuit against the state for the raid, calling it an illegal act of retaliation and an attempt to silence her, and has requested the state return computer equipment that authorities seized during the raid.

The data scientist has accused the state of misrepresenting the data, including only reporting the rate of new positive COVID-19 tests. After she left the Florida Department of Health, the state stopped releasing the list of coronavirus deaths from medical examiners, which at times reportedly reached 10 percent higher than the state count, according to NBC News.

Tags arrest Arrest warrant Coronavirus coronavirus data COVID-19 Florida Pandemic Rebekah Jones Ron DeSantis surrender

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