A judge is scheduled to hear arguments this week on whether the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) should return assets its agents seized when they executed a search warrant at the home of former Florida Department of Health data analyst Rebekah Jones.
The data analyst drew national attention last year after she accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration of manipulating data about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. She told the press she was fired in May 2020 after she refused to alter the numbers to suggest the state was ready to ease lockdown restrictions.
The analyst from Florida told the press she believes she is being punished for speaking out about how the governor is handling the pandemic, citing her arrest and raid on her home last month.
According to sources, FDLE agents searched her home on December 7 after an investigation purportedly linked her address to a message that was sent out to an estimated 1,750 state employees through an internal Department of Health multi-user 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 from an unidentified sender said.
She filed a lawsuit on December 20 claiming the search warrant was obtained in bad faith and without a legitimate purpose. The suit seeks punitive and compensatory damages as well as an injunction that would require FDLE to return the items seized in the search. Jones’ lawyers contended in the suit that she was not the sender of the anonymous message broadcast to state employees.
This week, a judge will hear a motion by her lawyers to force FDLE to return her property amid a broader lawsuit that claims the agency violated her due process rights by conducting an unlawful search and seizure, records show.
FDLE has not yet responded to the lawsuit or the motion, but the governor from Florida has publicly criticized the DOH data analyst.
“This individual became known, because she alleged a conspiracy theory at the Department of Health, which is unfounded and never proven at all,” the governor said. “She was fired because she wasn’t doing a good job. None of the stuff that she said was ever proven. You’d think that would be the end of it. Obviously, she’s got issues. In this situation, there was an intrusion of a very sensitive system. It’s an emergency alert system. If somebody gets a hold of that, they can do a lot of damage.”
Asset seizures like this one is possible because of civil asset forfeiture—a legal process that allows state or federal law enforcement agents to seize property they believe is connected to criminal activity, even if the property owner has not been charged with a crime.
Civil forfeiture often violates a property owner’s right to due process of law as is required by the Constitution. With assistance from a civil forfeiture defense attorney, an individual who has had their property seized by law enforcement has the right to challenge the action and make the government prove it is entitled to keep the property.
Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Has your property been seized by police or federal agents? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with an experienced nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.