By Rebekah Jones
The state of Florida determined on December 7, 2022 that its interests would best be served by dismissing its case for “exceeding authorized use of computer systems” against me, a charge stemming from the December 7, 2020 armed raid of my home.
…After I pay a $20,000 fee to police for “investigative costs,” inclusive of the time they spent pointing semi-automatic weapons at my two-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son on direct orders from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
No justice would be served by continuing the charade, but I must pay them regardless. In a judicial system adversarial to empathy, truth and human decency, I win a total dismissal… for a fee.
The state statute applied for the sole charge against me was struck down in June 2021 with the Van Buren v United States Supreme Court decision. We challenged the law, but the judge refused to hear arguments.
The conclusion of the two-years-long ordeal comes after I rejected multiple earlier plea offers from the state, who sought to settle the case without a trial early on.
In March 2021, the state offered a plea of “adjudication withheld” with requirements of community service, no arrests, no drugs - the boilerplate terms that come with a state wanting to save face on a case they know they will not win at trial.
Earlier this year, after damning depositions by witnesses doomed the state’s case, the state offered a deferred prosecution agreement similar to the one we ultimately agreed to. We were negotiating the conditions of dismissal when the state attorney assigned to the case ghosted us the month before the 2022 democratic primary election.
The week I won the Democratic primary for Congress in Florida’s 1st District, the state sent my lawyer a threatening email with its third offer of deferred prosecution, demanding that I drop my whistleblower complaint, agree to never work in, for or with the state of Florida again, admit guilt to a crime I did not commit, apologize to the police and the Department of Health, destroy evidence I maintained proving the state manipulated COVID-19 data (data the state falsely claimed I never had access to), pay the police, and the rest of the boilerplate. THEN they would completely dismiss the case. No criminal record. No guilty plea. Just drop it entirely.
In my exact words, I told them to go fuck themselves.
Journalist Grant Stern broke the story about the malicious prosecution, and a new dismissal offer came through shortly after. We made our corrections, and the state signed and returned the agreement to us exactly two years after the raid on my family. The agreement was fully executed and filed today, December 8, 2022.
The process to get here was certainly not without drama.
Once we reached a point where I was willing to sign the agreement, the prosecutor emailed my attorney stating she had used the “wrong form” and that she had “cut and paste” my signature from the previous version and affixed it to the new version.
The prosecutor playing an expensive game of chicken with a trial that in no way could have been fair for me attempted to forge my signature on legal documents neither I nor my lawyer had ever seen.
The “new form” changed the terms dramatically, and we told the prosecutor I was not willing to sign what they had sent. She told us to “strike out” any language we didn’t like and she would sign it. We did. She signed it. It’s done.
Payments will be spaced out over two years, but if I can pay the full sum to the police early, the agreement ends early and I won’t be beholden to the state anymore. The rich truly do not experience the same justice system as the rest of us.
All of this because I bruised the ego of an aspiring autocrat with delusions of grandeur.
Under Ron DeSantis’ regime, Florida offers false promises of “freedom” while operating as a prison for dissidents, critics, scientists, doctors, teachers, public servants, and anyone who displeases the Florida Führer.
The state police operate like the Stasi in post-World War II Germany, raiding innocent civilians only for the charges to be ultimately dismissed, using the mere existence of their unchecked power to intimidate people into silence and compliance.
The media, fickle, feckless and with a propensity for sensationalizing the benign and derisive toward its critics, never circles back to assess the financial, social, cultural, moral and human toll of DeSantis’ failed attacks on speech, science and freedom.
A few very recent examples:
The “Anti-WOKE” bill sought to enforce oppression and suppression of speech by limiting discussion of racism and privilege in schools and workplace training.
The courts recently struck down the “Anti-WOKE” bill. US District Judge Mark Walker stated in his scathing, 139-page ruling, “The First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark."
Legally-registered voters in Florida who were targeted by DeSantis during his publicity stunt of “cracking down” on non-existent voter fraud were raided and smeared before a Miami judge dismissed the first case and opened the door to total dismissal of all other related cases.
Twenty convicted felons completed their sentences and were approved to vote by their county Supervisor of Elections office and by the Florida’s Division of Elections. They received voter identification cards and cast legal ballots.
They became the first victims of the newly created Office of Election Crimes and Security, founded earlier this year as part of a national wave of Republican governors giving false credence to conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
The raids had an immediate chilling effect on felons who have had their voting rights restored. Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 to restore all voting rights to non-violent offenders who had completed the terms of their sentences. DeSantis intervened and began obstructing that process, however, by imposing fines and fees on those seeking restoration and creating a bottle-neck for those waiting for their rights to be restored.
Primary and secondary school teachers fear poverty, persecution, combatant, violent and belligerent parents, shootings, and consoling queer youth who confide in them.
The author of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill now sits in jail awaiting trial for multiple felonies. Legal challenges to DeSantis’ other anti-free-speech bills continue through the courts. DeSantis’ war on public education continues seemingly unabated, with terrorist organizations like “Moms for Liberty” scoring key appointments in the state’s public education hierarchy.
No meaningful change in teacher pay appears to be on the horizon. Currently, Florida ranks near the bottom nationally in average teacher pay. Florida's average teacher pay went from 47th worst when DeSantis took office to 48th worst in 2022. That didn’t stop DeSantis from falsely claiming Florida ranked in the Top 10 for teacher pay earlier this year.
Florida is also now the least affordable state to live in, which worsened the teacher crisis and created more than 9,000 unfillable teacher vacancies at the start of the school year. In desperation, DeSantis began offering teaching positions in public schools for veterans with no prior teaching experience, no college required, and no exams required.
DeSantis even expressed his intent to undo the post-Stoneman Douglas gun safety measures enacted in 2018 by a republican state legislature and signed by a republican governor.
Florida taxpayers have paid an undisclosed amount of money defending Ron DeSantis’ unconstitutional and radical laws, but the misguided, misinformed and disgruntled devotees of his brand of hate and cultural terrorism empty their shallow pockets and cheer on the depravity.
All the lies. All the death, suffering and despair. All the damage done to Florida and our nation.
The list of people victimized by DeSantis’ cruel, contentious and unconstitutional agenda grows longer each day.
After trafficking legal migrants from Texas to Florida and onto Massachusetts, however, the Florida Führer may have gone too far. He now faces multiple lawsuits and even criminal investigation for kidnapping and smuggling men, women and children in a failed anti-immigration publicity stunt gone horribly wrong.
Whatever punishment he faces, the damage to society and the lives lost cannot be undone. The consequences of his actions reach far beyond just Florida, though.
The state of Florida announced its intention to take my case to trial when they had no intention to do so, which undoubtedly impacted my election. I was the democratic nominee running against Matt Gaetz. Gaetz is one of Congress’ most corrupt and hated members, even within his own party.
The state then waited until one month after the 2022 election to finalize the agreement to dismiss its case against me .
I outperformed every statewide Democratic candidate on the ballot in my district by six points, on average. I came in second for small-donor contributions for all Democratic congressional candidates in the state, including incumbents. I pulled more votes from independents and Republicans than any Democratic candidate running in my district in the last three decades.
The only local news coverage we got in the last month before the election was about the state setting a date for a trial that is never going to happen.
I also recognize that despite all the suffering they’ve inflicted, things could be worse.
I continue to remind myself to be grateful. Certainly this is not the outcome DeSantis and his thugs wanted. And while an agreement to dismiss the charges isn’t the outright dismissal I wanted, it’s a dismissal none-the-less.
So where is the public outcry? The media vindication? The apologies? Perhaps they’re lost somewhere in the storm of mis/dis/mal information propagated by paid online terrorists.
All of the breaking news over the last few years have built my case against the state and proven my charges against them true, though none were fully covered by the media, save for a few well-researched pieces in Yahoo! News, The Miami Herald, and a handful of others.
In April 2022, the IG office said I told the truth on the charges against them regarding hiding/deleting/removing data, and it could not make a determination about asking me to manually alter statistics for public distribution – a massive win for our case.
In September 2022, FCHR determined I engaged in protected whistleblower activity, made a complaint demonstrating a violation of law that endangered the health, safety and welfare of the public, but because I was fired the day after I asked how to file a complaint (and thus had not filed it yet), I couldn’t have been fired in retaliation for filing the complaint.
The propaganda promoted by a network of PsyOp accounts online tells a different, entirely fabricated story. Propaganda not only designed to snuff out truth, but to also intimidate allies and silence the media. It’s incredibly effective.
From foreign nationals stoking division, to radicalized nationalists living in Kokomo, Indiana, to more mainstream operatives like disgraced former Politico columnist Marc Caputo, Twitter has no shortage of malinformation agents.
Caputo’s multiple warnings from executives at NBC seem to have gone unheeded, as he still stalks, harasses and defames me online, even brazenly commenting on my posts calling him out for being a fraud. Caputo notoriously fabricated stories based on the IG report last April, and forged official government records to defame me in October – a failed attempt at an “October surprise” by a close ally of both DeSantis and my opponent, Gaetz.
Twitter continues its downward spiral as users drop the platform in droves and previous bans on far-right radicals are lifted (I’m still suspended, though).
State and federal investigations into the network of malinformation agents remain ongoing, but those investigations can take years before arrests are made.
Those never held accountable for their crimes only ever become further emboldened.
But despite their tireless, relentless, obsessive efforts, my reputation remains intact and the case will be dismissed.
On paper, the last two years of political persecution through threat of criminal prosecution never happened.
I'll move on with life having no criminal record, having never pled guilty or no contest to any crime in any state at any point in my life.
But nothing can right the wrongs my family and I have lived through these past few years.
We’re free to file our civil lawsuit against the state, and we plan to do so in the very near future.
But nearly ten years passed before Theranos whistleblower Tyler Schultz saw Elizabeth Holmes convicted of her crimes and sentenced to a decade in prison.
Nearly 10 years passed before the families of children slaughtered in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School received a final judgment against malinformation agent and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
A full decade could pass by before we ever see a resolution or any real consequences for the violations of criminal and civil law committed by the state of Florida in its failed pursuit to silence a whistleblower.
For now, my path forward consists of a mix of activism, advocacy, and academia.
I’ll continue to work to dismantle the massive network of mis/dis/mal information plaguing society and poisoning our democracy.
Because what happened to me – even though on paper it never happened – should not, MUST not happen to anyone ever again.
As this part of my journey ends, I want to thank every single person who spoke out when my family was raided at gunpoint, who donated to help us fight a corrupt and powerful state, and who stayed with me through thick and thin as I continued the fight for government transparency and accountability through all of my projects, accomplishments and, yes, even the failures.
You can help us raise the funds needed to pay the police fee and terminate the agreement early by donating online here.