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Florida COVID-19 whistleblower turns herself in to police

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- The former Florida Department of Health data scientist who says she was fired after refusing to doctor the state's COVID-19 data has turned herself in to the police after a warrant had been issued for her arrest.

Rebekah Jones, 31, turned her self in to the authorities Sunday and was charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a statement on Monday.

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According to court records, Jones was released after posting a $2,500 bond.

Prior to being arrested, she tweeted that she was to be "censored by the state of Florida until further notice," accusing the Sunshine state of "jailing scientists for the crimes of knowing and speaking."

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Jones has been in a legal fight with Florida that stems from her firing in May and her turn as a whistle blower as she has accused the government, particularly Gov. Ron DeSantis, of trying to cover up the extent of the state's coronavirus outbreak to keep businesses open.

Her home was raided by authorities in early December under a search warrant, accusing her of illegally breaching an emergency messaging alert system in November to send out a message encouraging its users to voice criticism over Florida's handling of the coronavirus.

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On Saturday, Jones tweeted that the cause for her arrest was not related to the sending of the message but to some other documents in her possession.

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The Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Monday refuted her statement, saying "evidence retrieved from a search warrant on Dec. 7 shows that Jones illegally accessed the system sending a message to approximately 1,750 people and downloaded confidential [Florida Department of Health] data and saved it to her devices."

Jones, in a tweet on Saturday, said she would turn herself in "to protect my family from continued police violence, and to show that I'm ready to fight whatever they throw at me."

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