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Ex-Florida data scientist Rebekah Jones plans to surrender

Last Updated Jan 16, 2021 at 8:42 pm EST

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Florida woman fired from her job as a COVID-19 data curator said she’ll surrender to authorities Sunday amid an investigation of allegations that she had hacked into the state’s emergency response system.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Rebekah 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.

Jones, who has been highly critical of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on social media and questioned the validity of the state’s COVID data, said in a Twitter statement Saturday that she would surrender shortly.

In the tweet she said that “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. The Governor will not win his war on science and free speech. He will not silence those who speak out.”

It’s unclear what exact charge she might face. Jones said on Twitter that “the warrant was based on a lie” and noted a state agent told her the arrest warrant is unrelated to the December raid.

FDLE, the state’s top crime-fighting agency, confirmed Saturday there is an active warrant for her arrest, but an agency spokeswoman said they could not provide additional details until Jones surrendered.

The agency also confirmed it had “analyzed forensic evidence that was within the scope of the December search warrant,” according to an email statement to The Associated Press. It did not elaborate on the evidence.

Jones was fired from her post in May after she raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 data. She had been reprimanded several times and was ultimately fired for violating Health Department policy by making public remarks about the information, state records show.

“FDLE found no evidence of a message sent last Nov. to DOH staff telling them to ‘speak out’ on any of the devices they took … However, police did find documents I received/downloaded from sources in the state, or something of that nature,” she said in a series of Twitter statements.

DeSantis has defended the state’s handling of the case. After the December raid, Jones filed a complaint in Leon County Circuit Court alleging state police violated her rights to free speech and due process.

Kelli Kennedy, The Associated Press