Florida lawyer resigns appointed post after raid of data scientist’s home; calls Gov’s handling of coronavirus pandemic ‘reckless’

A Florida lawyer resigned his position on a panel that picks judges in protest on Tuesday, after law enforcement officers raided the home of a former state Department of Health employee who said she was fired after refusing to manipulate coronavirus data.

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Ron Filipkowski, 52, of Sarasota, resigned his state-appointed role after reviewing the search warrant affidavit the state used to seize computers and telephones from Rebekah Jones on Monday, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

Filipkowski, a lifelong Republican and former state and federal prosecutor who was appointed to the 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Committee by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, resigned and called the governor’s handling of the pandemic “reckless and irresponsible,” according to the Miami Herald.

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“The recent events regarding public access to truthful data on the pandemic, and the specific treatment of Rebekah Jones has made the issue a legal one rather than just medical,” Filipkowski wrote in a letter of resignation to the governor’s general counsel. “... I no longer wish to serve the current government of Florida in any capacity.”

State police raided the home of Jones, a former Florida Department of Health data scientist who has been publishing her own COVID-19 statistics after she said she was wrongfully terminated.

According to the Herald, Jones was fired in May as the geographic information system manager for the health department’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, after she complained in an email to users of a statewide data portal that the state was manipulating the public health data being shared to the site.

Filipkowski served on the JNC for 10 years and was twice appointed to the role by former Gov. Rick Scott and once by DeSantis.

“I watched the video when she tweeted it out right after the incident happened,” Filipkowski told CNN on Tuesday night. “I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I knew who she was, I’ve been following her as sort of an independent source of data after she was let go by the state.”

Filipkowski said he read the affidavit and told CNN he “could not believe what I was reading in the search warrant.”

“I was just really outraged by the whole situation, and then the final straw was hearing Gov. DeSantis’ spokesman, Fred Piccolo, come out and say, you know, that he didn’t know anything at all about the raid ... which I found to be just fantastical, you know, just not credible.”

Jones is suspected of sending an unauthorized message to members of Florida’s Emergency Response Team, charged with coordinating the public health and medical response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to the Herald.

The Nov. 10 message, obtained by the Sun-Sentinel, pleaded with recipients 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.”

In an interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Jones denied hacking the system.

“I have never had access to that system,” she told the newspaper. “I am not a hacker. I do data statistics and analysis.”

Click here to read Jones’ full Twitter thread on the raid.

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