Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday the search warrant executed by state agents at the home of a former Florida Department of Health data analyst who has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the state is standard procedure in an investigation and was not orchestrated by his office.
DeSantis, who rarely has appeared in public since the Nov. 3 election, responded to questions at a Tampa appearance, addressing for the first time Monday’s raid on Rebekah Jones’ home in Tallahassee by Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators, who seized laptops and phones.
According to the FDLE, investigators found an IP address tied to Jones’ home while investigating a Nov. 10 breach of the Division of Emergency Management’s messaging platform in which 1,750 Emergency Response Team members received a message urging them to “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead.”
“Her IP address was linked to the felony. What were they supposed to do, just ignore it? Of course, not,” DeSantis said. “There was an intrusion of a very sensitive system. If somebody gets a hold of that, they can do a lot of damage.”
Jones is being investigated for violating Florida’s ambiguous hacking statute. The FDLE claims she gained “unauthorized access” to DEM’s platform, which allows access to all users with the same username and password.
While DeSantis defended the seizure, some law enforcement officials and many legal experts question why such action was necessary for what amounts to sending an unauthorized message to a group chat.
Jones was fired in May for insubordination after claiming in a mass email to FDOH COVID-19 dashboard subscribers the state was manipulating data.
Jones, who filed a whistleblower complaint in July against the state, operates a website – The COVID Monitor – that tracks the disease and is an outspoken DeSantis critic on social media and cable news outlets.
Jones denies she sent the message and claims the “tech” seizure was to uncover her anonymous source in the FDOH. Her attorney, Lawrence Walters, suggested the raid was “retaliation” to undermine her whistleblower lawsuit.
Jones posted a video of the raid on Twitter, and it was viewed 10 million times by Friday afternoon. “They pointed a gun in my face,” Jones tweeted. “They pointed guns at my kids. They took evidence of corruption at the state level. They claimed it was about a security breach. This was DeSantis. He sent the gestapo.”
Two additional videos were released Thursday by the FDLE. The first video showed officers knocking on Jones’ door and asking her to come outside. In the second video, officers gained entry and the search warrant is executed.
FDLE “agents have been vilified over the past few days regarding the legal search warrant,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said. “Because of inaccurate and incomplete statements given by certain individuals, the body camera video taken from outside the home is being made available.”
DeSantis said Friday the videos confirm agents were ”very respectful.”
As a reporter attempted a follow-up, DeSantis blasted, “Excuse me. Excuse me. No, excuse me! I’m not gonna let you get away with it. These people did their jobs. They’ve been smeared as the ‘gestapo’ for doing their jobs. You guys need to look at facts and stop trying to feed narratives.”
Jones has established a GoFundMe account to raise money for her defense. As of Friday afternoon, more than 6,400 donors had contributed $231,232. After being fired in May, she raised $254,483 from 5,500 donors on another GoFundMe account, which closed Sept. 30
This individual became known because she alleged a conspiracy theory … which is unfounded, never proven at all,’’ DeSantis said. “You think that would be the end of it. Obviously, she’s got issues.”
Author : John Haughey
Source : Washington Examiner : DeSantis defends home search, seizure of critic’s property in Florida investigation