Rebekah Jones signs plea deal admitting guilt in DOH computer crime case

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Rebekah Jones signed a plea deal last week admitting guilt and agreeing to pay $20,000 in a pending criminal case in which she was charged with accessing a state computer system without authorization.

Prosecutors filed a deferred prosecution agreement in Leon County Circuit Court on Friday that was signed by Jones.

The agreement delays prosecution for two years and has six special conditions, including paying $20,000 to reimburse the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for its investigation costs and admitting guilt to the charged offense.

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If Jones meets conditions and is not arrested for another crime during the two-year period, prosecutors will drop the charges without Jones having to enter a guilty plea in the case officially.

Jones signed the agreement on Wednesday.

Jones was charged in the case after FDLE agents executed a search warrant on her home in December 2020 that made national news.

Prosecutors alleged that Jones accessed a state computer system without authorization and sent a mass text calling on state employees to speak out against Florida's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By that point, Jones had become a well-known critic of Gov. Ron DeSantis and had filed a whistleblower complaint after being fired from the Florida Department of Health five months earlier.

A state inspector general report released earlier this year on Jones' whistleblower allegations found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Department of Health.

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Jones' complaint with the Florida Human Relations Commission alleging that her firing from the Department of Health was retaliation was closed with a finding that the Department of Health had "reasonable cause" for terminating Jones.

Jones ran for Congress earlier this year as a Democrat seeking to unseat Rep. Matt Gaetz in the Republican stronghold of Northwest Florida. Gaetz easily won reelection with 68% of the vote.

Over the weekend, Jones took to social media calling reports she admitted guilt false. In a video posted to her YouTube account, she said she had only admitted to having a Department of Health roster on her private computer.

"There was no guilty plea. There was no plea of any kind because it was a dismissal. The case is being dropped," Jones said in a video published on her YouTube channel on Sunday.

Gaetz tweeted on Friday about that case saying, "The people who have lied about me keep pleading GUILTY to their crimes."

Jones responded to Gaetz's comment in her video, saying it was "false, defamatory, and libelous."

"We'll be seeing him in a lawsuit very, very soon," Jones said.

Jones was previously offered previous plea deal but turned it down after objecting to the conditions.

Jones said she signed the agreement because she plans to go back to school for her Ph.D.

"I'm tired of feeling like I'm suffocating because I've got the state's knee on my back," Jones said. "And at any moment, for any reason, jaywalking or whatever excuse they want to have, they can just re-arrest me and keep me indefinitely. This has gone on for two years."

Other special conditions Jones must meet as part of the agreement include paying a $100 fee to the State Attorney's Office, returning all Department of Health property exclusive of public records, 150 hours of community service at a minimum of 13 hours per week and that she see a licensed mental health professional for a minimum of one hour per week.

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Rebekah Jones signs plea deal admitting guilt in DOH computer crime case