Florida prosecutors enter into 'deferred prosecution' agreement with Rebekah Jones
The former state Department of Health employee was charged with a computer crime, which involved a raid on her Tallahassee home that made national headlines.
Florida prosecutors have entered into what is called a “deferred prosecution agreement” with former state Department of Health employee Rebekah Jones to resolve a computer-based crime against her.
Jones disclosed the agreement in an over 2,300-word Substack post, which City & State first reported Thursday. The case is being handled by the State Attorney’s Office for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, which includes Tallahassee, where Jones once worked and lived. A representative of the office provided a copy on Friday.
The agreement says Jones must, among other things, “admit her guilt,” perform 150 hours of community service and pay $20,000 in investigative costs to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in installments over the next two years. She also must “see a licensed mental health professional” for at least one hour per month.
If prosecutors are satisfied she has met the conditions, they will dismiss the case, the agreement says. Jones, however, omitted many of the details in her defiantly-worded post, including the requirement of an admission of guilt. Her Tallahassee-based attorney, Tom Findley, declined comment Thursday evening.
Jones, a geographic information system manager who worked on the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, drew national attention when she said Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration manipulated COVID data – an allegation that remains unsubstantiated.
Asked for comment late Thursday, a Department of Health spokesperson said, "The department wants to take this opportunity to remind Floridians to report charity scams found on GoFundMe and blogs like Substack," and sent a link to a brochure on "charity scams" from Attorney General Ashley Moody's office. Jones had included a link at the end of her post seeking donations to pay the costs.
Jones was fired from her Department of Health job in May 2020. She was charged in January 2021 with illegally accessing the computer system in November 2020. Authorities accused her of sending a message on an internal Department of Health multi-user messaging account.
“It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late,” the message said. Jones has denied sending the message. In unsuccessfully seeking a dismissal of the case, her attorneys said the system was used by multiple people who shared a username and password.
State police and others raided her Tallahassee home two years ago this month, and video that she took from inside the home made national headlines.
The video posted by Jones shows officers brandishing guns and telling Jones to exit her Tallahassee home. The video also shows a law enforcement officer yelling at Jones’ husband to “come down the stairs now.” Jones can be heard saying in a high-pitched voice, “He just pointed a gun at my children,” who remained upstairs and out of view of the camera.
According to a statement provided by FDLE at the time, Jones “refused to come to the door for 20 minutes and hung up on agents. After several attempts and verbal notifications that law enforcement officers were there to serve a legal search warrant, Ms. Jones eventually came to the door and allowed agents to enter. Ms. Jones' family was upstairs when agents made entry into the home.”
“If DeSantis thought pointing a gun in my face was a good way to get me to shut up, he's about to learn just how wrong he was,” she tweeted after the incident. Her Twitter account was later suspended.
More recently, she unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for a Florida Panhandle congressional seat, losing in the November election to Republican incumbent Matt Gaetz.
“For now, my path forward consists of a mix of activism, advocacy, and academia,” Jones wrote in her Substack post. “I’ll continue to work to dismantle the massive network of mis/dis/mal information plaguing society and poisoning our democracy.”
The News Service of Florida contributed background to this report. Contact Jim Rosica at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @JimRosicaFL.
NEXT STORY: Florida Supreme Court to decide whether police have privacy rights under 'Marsy's Law'