Florida data scientist drops lawsuit over armed raid at her home, for now

Florida data scientist drops lawsuit over armed raid at her home, for now

The Florida data scientist who had accused the state of misrepresenting its COVID-19 data dropped her lawsuit, for now, against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for conducting a raid at her home, her lawyer said on Monday.

Richard Johnson, who is representing former Florida Department of Health employee Rebekah Jones, told Florida Today that she would temporarily stop pursuing her civil suit against the state department for “a number of reasons,” including partly to focus on the criminal case she faces. 

"We can't have a civil suit running side by side when there's a criminal case going on,” he said. “It would give them the opportunity to get discovery from us to use in their criminal case. So we have to close off that avenue."

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Johnson said she plans to sue FDLE at a later time after the criminal case concludes. 

Florida authorities have charged her with violating the state’s computer crime laws, asserting that after she was fired from the health department last May, she used an official emergency messaging system to encourage other employees to speak out against the state management of COVID-19 data. 

Jones has said she is not guilty and has accused the state of raiding her home as an act of retaliation for her claims that state officials manipulated COVID-19 data to advocate for reopening the economy.

Her attorney noted that some aspects of the civil case, including her requests for her seized property to be returned, cannot be carried out due to the criminal case. 

“Now we've got the arrest,” he told Florida Today. “And so, the civil suit, eventually, is going to have to be amended to include all the arrest facts. It's obsolete, it's woefully out of date on what the biggest facts are."

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the civil lawsuit being dropped.

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Jones had turned herself in to police after officials issued a warrant for her arrest last month. 

She had been fired last year due to having “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination” and “blatant disrespect,” a spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Florida asks Supreme Court to block CDC's limits on cruise ship industry Noem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event MORE (R) had said. 

Officials say she used the emergency messaging system, saying it was “time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead.” After authorities connected Jones’s IP address to the message, armed FDLE agents conducted a raid of her home and took her electronic devices. 

Jones filed a lawsuit against FDLE in December, saying the execution of the search warrant was an attempt to silence her. 

On Sunday, Jones detailed her account of events in a Twitter thread, hinting at an upcoming book on the incident.

“I hope the lessons from Florida's tragic (and avoidable) COVID-19 catastrophe can be learned, and my advise heeded to those who might find themselves in impossible positions as I did,” she said. “I hope my book encourages them to be #insubordinate for truth and science.”