Florida data scientist who says she was expelled over COVID numbers is suing the state

The Florida data scientist who says state officials fired her for refusing to change the coronavirus numbers sued authorities Monday, alleging that a police raid on her home earlier this month was an illegal act of retaliation.

In a 19-page complaint filed in Tallahassee District Court, lawyers for Rebekah Jones argued that Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials conducted the December 7 raid to silence her online speech and win favor with Governor Ron DeSantis, who has criticized Jones and whose office said she was fired in May for repeated “ insubordination. ”

Jones, who helped develop the state’s coronavirus dashboard, attributed her impeachment to her refusal to “ manually change data to gain support for the plan to reopen. ”

Rebekah Jones.MSNBC

Jones has since filed a whistleblower complaint with government officials and developed another coronavirus dashboard that her lawsuit says is popular with scientists and medical professionals for its “ painstakingly accurate and honest data. ”

The department executed the December 7 search warrant at Jones’ Tallahassee home after allegedly gaining access to a Department of Health-run communications platform and sending a Nov. 10 group text to warn users that it was “time to before another 17,000 people are dead. ”

The suit describes officers with guns drawn aggressively entering her home before an unnamed officer allegedly “slid his hands up and down her ribs and grabbed her side just below her breasts and held her” while Jones stood with arms raised.

During a two-hour search, agents seized Jones’ computer, cell phone and other devices that formed her “entire data and reporting infrastructure,” the suit said.

In an interview with NBC News earlier this month, Jones denied sending the Nov. 10 message, and the lawsuit suggests someone could have spoofed her IP address to gain access to the state-run communications platform. The lawsuit notes that government officials had posted the platform’s credentials on the Internet.

After the raid, the lawsuit says, Jones and her family began receiving hate mail and intimidating phone calls after state law enforcement officials issued a warrant containing her home address and other personal information. (NBC News edited that information.)

“She is so terrified for the safety of her and her family that she is taking root and leaving the state,” the suit said.

Asked about the raid earlier this month, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s top official said agents “entered the house in accordance with normal protocols” after calling Jones and knocking on the front door of her home.

Jones hanged the officers, said department commissioner Rick Swearingen, who is named in the suit.

On Monday, Swearingen said in a statement that he “took pride in the professionalism of our FDLE agents when they issued a legal search warrant at Rebekah Jones’s home. Our criminal investigation continues, and while I haven’t seen this lawsuit, I think the facts will emerge in court. “

The suit demands a minimum of $ 30,000 in damages and the release of Jones’ computer and other devices.