Judge won't dismiss case against Florida virus whistleblower

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss a criminal case against a former Florida Department of Health employee-turned whistleblower who raised questions about information being reported by the state on the coronavirus.

Judge Francis Allman in Tallahassee rejected a motion to dismiss the criminal case against Rebekah Jones. The Leon County judge didn't elaborate on his reasons in a one-page order.

Jones helped build the state’s online presentation of its COVID-19 data until she was fired. She received national attention last year when she suggested that Health Department managers wanted her to manipulate information to paint a rosier picture of Florida's coronavirus situation and that she pushed back.

She has received whistleblower status from the department's Office of Inspector General.

Earlier this year, she was charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices after someone illegally accessed a state emergency-alert messaging system, known as ReadyOp, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

FDLE investigators said Jones illegally accessed the system and sent a message to about 1,750 people, and downloaded confidential data and saved it to her devices. Jones has denied sending the message.