Rebekah Jones, a former Florida Department of Health (DOH) employee, says she tested positive for COVID-19 while she was in jail.
Jones, who claimed that she was fired for refusing to manipulate data to support Governor Ron DeSantis‘ plan to reopen Florida, turned herself in to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office Sunday night after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) issued a warrant for her arrest.
Jones made her first court appearance on Monday and was released shortly after on a $2,500 bond. Walking out of jail shortly after, Jones told reporters that she tested positive for the virus after she was jailed.
“I just wanted to tell you guys to make sure you take care of your own health. COVID is by no means over and we’re still going to be dealing with this virus for a lot longer,” Jones told reporters on Monday.
Jones, who made headlines again on Dec. 7 when FDLE officers serving a search warrant at her house went viral, was charged “with one count of offenses against users of computers, computers systems, computer networks and electronic devices.”
“Evidence retrieved from a search warrant on December 7 shows that Jones illegally accessed the system sending a message to approximately 1,750 people and downloaded confidential FDOH data and saved it to her device,” an FDLE spokesperson said in a statement.
The charges come after police seized computer equipment last December that belonged to Jones as part of an ongoing investigation on whether Jones illegally accessed a state messaging system without authorization. The message in question called for state officials to speak out about the pandemic.
“It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead, the message sent on Nov. 10 reads. “You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
Agents traced the message to an IP address linked to Jones’ house, according to an affidavit, which resulted in officers confiscating her laptop.
In a series of tweets on Saturday, Jones announced that she was turning herself to “protect her family,” but called the new charges “bogus.”
A potential condition of my release may be no access to computers, internet or electronic devices. Bogus charges designed to silence and now jail me for being a scientist critical of the government. That’s the textbook definition of #censorship.
— Rebekah Jones (@GeoRebekah) January 16, 2021