A former Florida Department of Health data analyst is suing Florida over a search warrant that she feels violated her rights.
The suit, which was filed on Sunday in Leon County, states that Rebekah Jones’ First Amendment rights and due-process rights were violated when state law enforcement searched her home and confiscated her computer after revealing that Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration had manipulated the state’s COVID-19 statistics. Lawyers for Jones argues that the search warrant that was executed on December 7th “was obtained in bad faith and with no legitimate object or purpose.”
“They were there to execute a search warrant for her electronic devices; however, the basis of the warrant was a sham to punish plaintiff (Jones) for her protected speech,” the lawsuit stated. “Her termination from the Florida Department of Health after refusing to falsify data generated a great deal of media coverage much to the dismay of the state.”
Additionally, the lawsuit names Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, Agent Noel Pratts, and one unidentified agent listed as defendants.
On Monday, Swearingen issued a statement defending his agent’s actions during the search.
“As I have said before, I am proud of the professionalism shown by our FDLE agents as they served a legal search warrant on the residence of Rebekah Jones. Our criminal investigation continues, and while I have not seen this lawsuit, I believe the facts will come out in court.”
The search took place at Jones’ home after her address was linked to a message on November 7th generated from an internal Department of Health multi-user account.
“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,” the message stated. The sender of that message has not been identified, though the lawsuit does confirm that Jones was “neither the author nor the sender of the message.”
Jones’ was fired earlier this year after coming forward with accusations that Florida officials purposefully manipulated data to downplay the number of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Jones is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as an injunction that would force Swearingen to return her items that were seized during the search. Even more shocking is that the lawsuit documents accuse agent John Doe of battery for inappropriately touching Jones during the search. Pratts is named as the one in charge of the search.