Ousted Florida health scientist asks state to return gear seized in raid
A Florida analyst who claims she was fired for raising concerns about how the state tracked coronavirus data is asking a court to return computer equipment seized by law enforcement.
In a motion filed in Leon County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Rebekah Jones’s attorney, Richard E. Johnson, asked for the return of computers, phones and flash drives police took possession of when they served a warrant at her house, the Miami Herald reported.
Police have claimed Jones sent an unauthorized message through the state’s emergency operations system that read: “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.”
Johnson attached an affidavit from a data expert saying there is no evidence Jones sent the message. Login information for the alert system was widely disseminated on the internet before the message went out.
“The basis for this motion is twofold: first, the act alleged against Plaintiff is not even theoretically a crime and thus could not support a search warrant against anybody; and second, no probable cause was shown sufficient to link Plaintiff to the alleged message transmission,’’ the motion states.
Bennett Cyphers, the expert who wrote the affidavit, noted that the state did not seize Jones’s wireless router and said it failed to conclusively link her devices to the IP address associated with the message.
IP addresses, he wrote, “cannot be used to identify a particular device or person.”
“It is common for a local network to be shared by not only family or friends, but also complete strangers,” Cyphers added.
Jones has said she was fired for refusing to misleadingly report coronavirus data to make the virus appear more under control in the state.
Last week, she sued the Florida Department of Law Enforcement over the Dec. 7 search of her home. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has claimed she was fired for insubordination.
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