Judge who approved raid on Florida Covid scientist appointed by Governor DeSantis

The judge, Joshua Hawkes, was sworn in this November

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Sunday 13 December 2020 08:50 GMT
Police raid home of former Florida Covid data scientist
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A former Florida data scientist, who says she was fired for refusing to manipulate state Covid-19 data, questioned the motivations of a judge who signed off on a police raid of her home. 

The judge, Joshua Hawkes, was sworn in this November. 

“I don’t personally know the man, I’m not a connected person, but to be the most recent [Florida governor Ron] Desantis employee assigned to family court, and to have this be the first thing that you sign off on, I think that speaks for itself,” Rebekah Jones told CNN on Thursday.

Judge Hawkes signed off on the raid of Ms Jones’ Tallahassee home. Body camera footage showed that police entered the house with guns drawn on Monday.

The raid was reportedly Judge Hawkes’s first major act since he was sworn in this November. He did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

The raid has added to the wider controversy surrounding the scientist’s firing in May, which state officials said was for insubordination.

A spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis told the Tallahassee Democrat that he had no prior knowledge of the raid, and wasn’t involved in the investigation into Ms Jones.

“The Governor had no involvement in the investigation or any judicial proceeding attendant to any such investigation,” they said. “He expects, and has no doubt, that Ms. Jones will and should be afforded all the rights and presumptions that this great country grants the accused.”

Lawyers for Ms Jones challenged the basis for the raid, which seized a computer and a cell phone from her home. Ms Jones says the items contain evidence of state malfeasance surrounding its Covid response.

“The actions of Florida law enforcement captured on my client’s video depicts unnecessarily reckless and aggressive behavior in the execution of a search warrant for computers," Larry Walters, one of her attorneys, told The Democrat. "We intend to thoroughly investigate the alleged basis for this search which resulted in the forced disclosure of confidential communications with our adversary in litigation.”

A Republican lawyer who Gov. DeSantis appointed to a Florida judicial nominating committee resigned on Thursday in protest of the raid. 

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that it raided Ms Jones’ home after they traced an unauthorized use of the state’s emergency alert system to an IP address associated with Ms Jones’ Comcast account. 

In November, someone gained access to the system and sent nearly 2,000 people an emergency alert that read, “"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. Speak out before it's too late.”

Ms Jones filed a whistleblower complaint over her firing in July with the state’s human rights commission. 

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