The fired Florida Health Department employee in charge of the state’s COVID-19 response website has a lurid past including three arrests, a torrid affair with her student and being fired from her previous university teaching job, a DailyMail.com investigation can reveal.
Rebekah Jones, 30, claims she was asked to leave by health officials this month because she refused to fudge coronavirus infection numbers. But a different picture has now emerged after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that Jones was canned because of insubordination and called her ‘disruptive.’
A DailyMail.com investigation has revealed Jones, a married mother-of-two, was fired from Florida State University for having an affair with one of her students while she herself was a PhD student and instructor in 2017.
The affair – which she chronicled in great detail in a 342-page essay that she filed as part of a now dismissed defamation case – ended with three arrests and revenge porn and cyber stalking cases against her as well as her claim of a pregnancy.
The essay, obtained by DailyMail.com, includes page after page of graphic details on alleged sexual encounters with then-student Garrett Sweeterman, then 21, as well as X-rated text messages about sexual fantasies both were having about one another.
Rebecca Jones, a married mother-of-two, was charged with three counts of cyberstalking her student Garrett Sweeterman, 21, who filed a restraining order against her. She’s pictured with her husband and two children
She allegedly created a ‘revenge porn’ website called SurvivingGarrett and sent the link to online boards focusing on women’s issues and the #metoo movement showing naked photos of her student and lover Garrett Sweeterman, 21, (pictured)
Records show Jones was arrested for the first time and charged with vandalizing Sweeterman’s car at the condo he shared with other FSU students in October 2017
Court documents show that Jones has been charged three times
The essay even describes her body’s sensations when she had sex with Sweeterman on the floor of her university office, as well as the size of the student’s manhood . FSU, like most universities, bans sexual contact between professors and their students.
The affair, Jones claims in the essay and court records, led to a pregnancy. She gave birth to a little girl, Evelyn, in mid-2018.
Records show Jones is still living with her husband, 34-year-old Jacob Romer, their eight-year-old son and the new toddler.
Neither Jones nor Romer returned calls or responded to emails and text messages asking for their comment.
An email to Jones triggered an automatic reply asking those who contact her to donate to the GoFundMe page of her father and mother. Their house in Mississippi was destroyed by tornadoes April 12. So far, donors sent $6,565.
Sweeterman, who works for a tech company in Tampa, Florida, picked up his cellphone and said: ‘I’m sorry, I just don’t want to talk about this.’
The affair led to criminal charges for Jones.
Records show Jones was arrested for the first time and charged with vandalizing Sweeterman’s car at the condo he shared with other FSU students in October 2017.
She once was charged with contempt of court for failing to follow a judge’s orders to stay away from the campus of Florida State University.
Public medical documents also show the same judge in Tallahassee, Florida, ordered that she take medications prescribed to her during a mental health evaluation as a condition for her release from one of Jones’ three stints in jail.
Rebekah Jones led a team of Florida Department of Health scientists and public health officers to create and design a comprehensive COVID-19 dashboard
Neither Jones nor her husband Romer returned calls or responded to emails and text messages asking for their comment
Records show Jones is still living with her husband, 34-year-old Jacob Romer, their eight-year-old son and the new toddler, believed to be Sweeterman’s
According to Tallahassee Police records, Jones discovered Sweeterman’s address off campus despite the fact he refused to tell her where he lived, and drove to his house to talk about her pregnancy.
The two apparently argued in front of his university roommates and Jones allegedly kicked the door of Sweeterman’s car, denting it.
She drove away from the scene but local cops pulled her over and eventually arrested her.
Jones struck a deal with prosecutors and the case was dismissed after she completed a pre-trial intervention program for first-time offenders.
Jones, however, also got on the radar of university officials.
Because she allegedly texted Sweeterman about using a coat hanger to end her pregnancy and wanting to die, her second arrest affidavit shows, Florida State University campus police knocked on the door of her marital home and attempted to have Jones committed to a mental institution. Jones did receive treatment and was released.
That prompted the university to initiate an investigation into Jones’ dealings with her student and eventually the school fired her, according to an arrest affidavit and Jones’ detailed essay.
Her contacts with police, however, continued.
In March 2018, Jones was charged with violation of a court order, robbery without violence and trespassing.
FSU Police had been called to the campus after Sweeterman reported Jones had slapped his cellphone from his hands then left with it, according to an FSU police report.
Jones was banned from campus but still had managed to find Sweeterman in one of his classes.
What’s more, weeks earlier, Sweeterman obtained a restraining order against Jones, according to legal documents.
She was booked and spent the night in jail. A judge then allowed Jones to go free for as long as she took medications prescribed to her during a mental health evaluation, an FSU police report shows.
Citing conflicting statements about the incident from both Jones and Sweeterman as well as a lack of witnesses, the state attorney declined to prosecute Jones.
Jones’ brushes with the law continued in July 2019, days after she gave birth to her daughter.
This time, she was an employee of the state’s health department.
Court records show she was charged with three counts of cyberstalking Sweeterman after she allegedly created a ‘revenge porn’ website called SurvivingGarrett and sent the link to online boards focusing on women’s issues and the #metoo movement.
According to court records, the website included photos of Sweeterman naked that he allegedly shared with her when they were lovers.
The Tallahassee Police report also shows, in June 2019, Sweeterman was receiving ‘multiple calls’ from the state’s Department of Health that he didn’t pick up.
The cyberstalking case is still pending. She could be facing prison time, according to a lawyer familiar with the case.
Jones filed an entire essay, 342 pages, as supporting evidence in a libel and slander lawsuit she filed against Sweeterman. It was voluntarily dismissed within weeks of the filing. The essay was titled ‘It Was Warm The Day We Met’ and dedicated ‘To those who need to heal’
Jones posted at least 60 pages of a 342-page manifesto with a narrative of the affair with Sweeterman, screen grabs of texts and sexts she claims were between the them
As part of the charging documents, authorities mentioned the fact Jones posted at least 60 pages of what they called a manifesto with a narrative of the affair with Sweeterman, screen grabs of texts and sexts she claims were between the two, photos and x-rated paragraphs about their trysts.
Jones eventually filed the entire essay, 342 pages, as supporting evidence in a libel and slander lawsuit she filed against Sweeterman. It was voluntarily dismissed within weeks of the filing.
Jones described how she immediately noticed Sweeterman in the class she taught as a post-graduate student and a relationship ensued
Titled ‘It Was Warm The Day We Met’ and dedicated ‘To those who need to heal,’ the essay reads like an old Penthouse sex column.
A passage about Jones’ first sexual, and painful, encounter with Sweeterman reads: ‘I figured it had just been too long since I had sex last, and Garrett was bigger than I was used to.’
The essay centers on Jones’ claims she got pregnant during the affair and what she claims were weeks of pressure from Sweeterman that she get an abortion.
In the essay she blames her criminal entanglements and her firing from FSU on Sweeterman’s desire to punish her for carrying the baby to term.
It describes how little Evelyn ‘resembles him (Sweeterman) already with her blonde curls and piercing eyes.’
Last year, Jones filed a paternity and child support lawsuit against Sweeterman.
It was dismissed just days before Sweeterman submitted to a scientific DNA test, according to the case’s dockets.
The reasons for the dismissal included the fact husband Romer’s name is on the child’s birth certificate.
In her writings, Jones described how she immediately noticed Sweeterman in the class she taught as a post-graduate student.
Within days in early 2017, she recalled being attracted to him to the point of calling him into her office to berate him about the low quality of an assignment and noticing, she wrote, that he was aroused under his sweaty gym shirt and shorts.
‘He sat too close to me,’ she wrote about the meeting, ‘looked at me like I was something to devour and brushed his legs against me several times. I could feel the heat coming off his body. And I noticed him getting hard.’
An arrest affidavit shows Sweeterman identified Jones as the suspect of ‘criminal mischief’ with 100% certainty
Details of Jones’ second arrest for robbery and trespassing are explained in the documents where she described Sweeterman as harassing her
The other students in her class, she wrote, were aware of the flirtation between Sweeterman and Jones which, at times, took place in the classroom.
By the end of the semester, Jones shared her cellphone number with the students, as she always does, and Sweeterman started texting her immediately, she alleged.
The texts continued for weeks after her classroom instruction ended and eventually turned graphic.
According to her essay, Jones texted him: ‘So, if I told you I’ve had recurring fantasies about you that take place in my office …’
Sweeterman allegedly answered: ‘Would it be weird if I told you I’ve had similar ones in your office?’
From there, it evolved into sexting, with Jones telling Sweeterman: ‘I’m gripping onto you, you want it so bad … you moan, you can’t help it …’
At times during their online trysts, Jones wrote she was so aroused she could no longer type on her cellphone or breathe properly.
Later, Jones and Sweeterman appear to have hooked up physically at least three times in the summer of 2017, both at her office and in a hotel room.
According to her essay, Jones soured on Sweeterman after she became pregnant when, she claims, he refused to engage with the baby and rejected her love.
The first lines of the essay read: ‘I find talking about Garrett Sweeterman difficult now, as though I’m sharing the stories of a character in a book – and antagonist, a despot, a stranger who I knew so intimately for so long but never really knew at all.’
Last year, Jones filed a paternity and child support lawsuit against Sweeterman, but it was dismissed due to the fact husband Romer’s name is on the child’s birth certificate
The Florida Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment about Jones’ employment and whether health officials knew of Jones’ legal entanglements and firing from FSU when they hired her.
Robert A. Morris, Jones’ lawyer in the revenge porn case, emailed a statement highlighting her ‘sound’ academic history.
‘It is unfortunate that Ms. Jones has been thrust into this spotlight,’ he wrote. ‘I am certain that appropriate investigation and inquiry from oversight committees and other investigative agencies will reveal what has happened and why it has happened.
‘Ms. Jones has a sound academic history. Her prior personal history and challenges should not be mixed with the present circumstance. Ms. Jones is working hard to resolve personal and private legal issues that are completely unrelated to her awkward thrust into the national media through no choice of her own.’
Sweeterman’s lawyer also released a statement.
‘Mr. Sweeterman has nothing to do with the current situation between the Florida Department of Health and Ms. Jones, and does not know anything about it,’ Tiffany Cruz wrote in an email. ‘In 2019, Ms. Jones published a number of allegations about Mr. Sweeterman, from the time he was her student at FSU. Ms. Jones filed a number of legal actions against him, which the court records will show were rightly dismissed by her and the court.’