The Corner

Law & the Courts

Rebekah Jones Smears Governor DeSantis’s New Press Secretary

(Vladstudioraw/iStock/Getty Images)

It is fairly hard to keep up with the sheer amount of misinformation that Rebekah Jones still throws out into the ether, but today brought with it a particularly useful example of how she operates, so I thought I’d examine it in detail and then share what I found as a follow-up to my larger piece from last week.

This morning, shortly after my appearance on MSNBC, Jones made a dramatic claim about a woman named Christina Pushaw, who wrote a piece about Jones in Human Events a few months back and who now works in Governor DeSantis’s press office. Pushaw, Jones suggested, is “facing criminal charges” for having violated a restraining order that Jones had taken out against her. In support of this assertion, Jones posted a screenshot from the District Court of Maryland’s website that, she implied, confirms that something is awry.

As is typical, Jones’s many followers have taken this as gospel. But it’s not. In fact, it’s yet another falsehood. Moreover, it is perfectly emblematic of what Jones has done throughout her attempt to convince people that Florida is cooking the books, which is to claim serious wrongdoing by someone else that, upon closer examination, turns out to be serious wrongdoing of her own.

To understand what is happening here, one needs to understand that Montgomery County, Md. (where Jones now lives) has an unusual way of treating  restraining orders, in that it allows residents to take state-aided action before a judge has so much as glanced at the evidence being presented. Specifically, a resident of Montgomery County can take both primary actions (obtaining a “peace order”) and secondary actions (filing a complaint for violations of that order) without having anybody but the complaining party herself decide if she has a case.

Naturally, this arrangement is ripe for abuse. And abuse it Rebekah Jones most certainly did. Here, in chronological order, is what happened:

  1. Claiming “harassment,” Rebekah Jones filed for an interim peace order (essentially, a restraining order) against Christina Pushaw, for the crime of having critically examined Jones’s claims on the Internet and then tweeted about it.
  2. As a matter of routine, an interim peace order was granted ex parte to Jones — not by a judge, but by a commissioner. To obtain it, all Jones had to do was give sworn testimony (verbal or written) that someone was threatening or harassing her.
  3. Before that interim peace order could be examined by a court, Jones filed a citizen complaint claiming that Pushaw was in violation of it. At this point, Pushaw had not even been served the interim peace order. As is standard, Jones’s complaint was placed into a pile of similar complaints, pending examination by a prosecutor.
  4. On April 30th, in Case No. 0602SP003672021, a judge in the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County denied Jones’s petition to extend the initial interim peace order on the grounds that the “petitioner could not meet required burden of proof.” Specifically, the judge explained to Jones that journalism is not harassment; that Americans are free to examine the falsifiable claims of public figures; and that there was no evidence of harassment, of any likelihood of future harassment, or of any item that “would be the basis of relief.” On the District Court of Maryland’s website, this case is now listed as “Closed,” with the result, “This order is denied because: There is no statutory basis for relief.”
  5. Although the interim peace order was immediately voided by the judge’s decision, the paperwork for the secondary complaint is still awaiting processing. Because there is no legitimate underlying peace order for Pushaw to have violated, this secondary claim will have to be dropped (or nolle prossed, in the lingo). But, for purely bureaucratic reasons, that hasn’t happened yet, and so . . .
  6. Jones is now pretending that there is an open “criminal” case against Pushaw, when there is no such thing.

As you can see, just as with the notion that Florida is “fudging” its COVID numbers, this entire incident is the product of a false claim by Rebekah Jones. The story is her, and her alone. Her claims are hers, and hers alone. The “evidence” she has presented is the product of things for which she is solely responsible. And, again, there’s no scandal here — except, that is, the one of Jones’s own making.

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