TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Ousted Florida Department of Health scientist Rebekah Jones has sued the Florida Department of Law Enforcement following a raid at her Tallahassee home earlier this month.
Jones' lawyer filed the lawsuit on her behalf Sunday night in Leon County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit contends that FDLE commissioner Rick Swearingen and two other FDLE agents, including ranking FDLE agent Noel Pratts, violated her First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights, and the law, in the raid on her home on Dec. 7.
Calling the basis behind the search warrant a "sham to punish her," the suit said it "was obtained in bad faith and with no legitimate object or purpose."
"FDLE, seeking to ingratiate itself to DeSantis, sought to silence [Jone's] online speech by confiscating her computer and to discover her confidential sources and other information by seizing her cell phone," the lawsuit read. "That was the motive for obtaining the search warrant, not the ridiculous notion that FDLE believed Plaintiff sent the message at issue and that it would have been illegal so to do."
Jones posted her own video of the raid the same day it happened, the post garnering thousands of comments.
1/— Rebekah Jones, MS, GISP (@GeoRebekah) December 7, 2020
There will be no update today.
At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech.
They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint.
They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.. pic.twitter.com/DE2QfOmtPU
The FDLE later released body cam footage from the raid. FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen also defended the FDLE's actions then, saying "to compare agents lawfully executing a search warrant to the Gestapo is just ridiculous."
A search affidavit said officers believe someone used Jones' IP address in the system to send a group text to more than 1700 people saying, "It's time 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."
FDLE officers took Jones' computer and phones to trace her online footprint.
The lawsuit contends not only was the raid unjustified, but it was also meant to intimidate Jones, her husband, their 2-year-old daughter and their 11-year-old son, leaving them "terrified and traumatized."
"[Jones] has been placed in such fear for her and her family's safety that she is pulling up roots and moving out of state," the lawsuit read.
Jones helped create the state's COVID-19 dashboard and was terminated from the Florida Department of Health in May, shortly after alleging the state was softening its virus data. At the time, officials said her firing was for insubordination. Gov. Ron DeSantis called it a "non-issue."
In the months following, Jones has continued to criticize DeSantis and his handling of COVID-19, regularly speaking on national news outlets, something the lawsuit also mentions.
“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," the lawsuit stated.
DeSantis has denied he knew Jones was involved before news of the search broke. He also has supported FDLE's actions.
Authorities have yet to charge Jones with a crime. To read the full lawsuit, scroll down or click here.