FDLE chief blasts Rebekah Jones, defends agents

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner on Tuesday continued to stand by agents who conducted a search of the home of a former state employee accused of hacking into the state’s COVID-19 emergency response system.

While asserting that his agents did not point guns at the children of Rebekah Jones, Commissioner Richard Swearingen defended the way they dealt with Jones. In part, he said she had previously been involved in an altercation with a police officer in Louisiana.

Swearingen told reporters that in 2016, the Louisiana State University Police Department charged Jones with one count of battery on a law enforcement officer and two counts of resisting arrest. He said she attacked an LSU police officer who prevented her from getting computer equipment from an office after she was fired by the university. 

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“She kicked him in the groin before he was able to subdue her, forcibly subdue her, until other officers arrived,” Swearinger said. Jones, who helped build Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard, was fired from her job at the Department of Health in May.

While state officials maintained she was fired for insubordination, Jones said she was pushed out for refusing to manipulate COVID-19 data.

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Jones alleges Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration wanted her to alter the data to bolster the governor’s efforts to reopen the state’s economy following the shutdown in spring. Since the firing, Jones has become a force on Twitter, amassing more than 361,000 followers and has made appearances on national TV shows.

Jones last week posted video of FDLE agents entering her home with weapons drawn as they executed a search warrant for computer equipment. She accused DeSantis of sending the “Gestapo” after her and said she wouldn’t be silenced. Swearingen called it “offensive” to refer to state agents as “Gestapo,” a reference to the secret police in Nazi Germany.

“She has either alleged or insinuated that somehow the governor, the head of FDLE, about a half dozen of his agents, a state attorney and now a circuit judge are all involved in some big conspiracy to take down --- I didn’t realize how ridiculous that sounds until I actually said it --- to take down a former low-level bureaucrat in the Department of Health,” he said. “If you are going to make those allegations, you’d better have a pretty clear record.”

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