The front page of the latest weekly edition of the Marion County Record was dedicated to two stories about a raid by local police on its offices and the publisher’s home on Aug.
(John Hanna/AP)A Kansas newspaper raided by the local police last week had its equipment released Wednesday as questions remain over the legality of the initial seizure.The Marion County Record published the weekly edition of its paper for the town of 1,900 on Wednesday with the headline “SEIZED … but not silenced.” The outlet had been targeted on Aug.
11 by the Marion Police Department, which hauled away the seven-person staff’s computers, cellphones and server.
Using old equipment, the staff worked through the night Tuesday in order to get the paper out.“We would rather die than not get published,” the paper’s publisher, Eric Meyer, told KSHB 41.Later Wednesday, the search warrant granting the Marion police permission to carry out the raid was withdrawn, and the seized items were released.
Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey said in a statement that after reviewing the search warrant, he had decided to withdraw it, citing “insufficient evidence” tying the newspaper office and the items seized to the alleged crime the police claimed to be investigating.
Ensey called for the affidavit that prompted the warrant to be made public.‘A step in the right direction’A tribute to the late Marion County Record co-owner Joan Meyer sits outside the newspaper’s office on Monday.
(John Hanna/AP)Bernie Rhodes, the Kansas City attorney representing the paper, told Yahoo News that his forensic expert had retrieved the seized material from where it was being held at the office of the county sheriff, which had assisted with the raid.
Rhodes said that police assured him they hadn’t accessed the information on any of the items but that his expert was going to confirm that.“Returning the seized material is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t cure everything from this situation,” Rhodes said.
“This will take a while to play out, and justice generally isn’t swift but we think we will get there.”When asked which laws the police department might have violated in executing the raid, Rhodes said it was too early in the process to say.
First Amendment experts have said the actions are potentially illegal under the federal Privacy Protection Act of 1980, while others noted that the 2010 Kansas reporters’ shield law also should have prevented the seizure.In addition to taking material from the paper’s office, the police also executed a search warrant on the homes of Meyer and City Councilwoman Ruth Herbel.
Meyer’s 98-year-old mother, Joan, was home at the time of the raid and died the next day, which Meyer attributed to the stress caused by the police.
Flowers were left for the elder Meyer outside the Record’s office, a makeshift memorial for the paper’s co-owner.Murky reasoning behind raidBarb Creamer, who works for the Marion County Record, goes through copies of its latest edition on Wednesday.
(John Hanna/AP)According to a copy of the search warrant obtained by the Kansas Reflector, the raid was conducted on suspicion of identity theft and unlawful acts concerning computers.
It was tied to a complaint from local restaurant owner Kari Newell, who said the paper had illegally acquired information about a drunk driving conviction.
Meyer has denied that accusation, saying the newspaper got the information about the restaurateur’s drunk driving record from a separate source and published it only after Newell publicly accused the paper of wrongdoing at a City Council meeting.
Meyer also noted that he and one of his reporters had been ejected from a public event with Rep.
Jake LaTurner, R-Kan., hosted by Newell earlier this month.In addition to Newell’s accusation, Meyer said his paper had also been investigating the town’s new police chief, Gideon Cody, after “half a dozen or more” anonymous sources from his previous job with the Kansas City police began reaching out with allegations that Cody retired from that job “to avoid demotion and punishment over sexual misconduct charges and other things.” The paper had not run any stories about Cody because they couldn’t get anyone to go on the record or acquire his old personnel file.“But the allegations — including the identities of who made the allegations — were on one of the computers that got seized,” Meyer said last week.
“I may be paranoid that this has anything to do with it, but when people come and seize your computer, you tend to be a little paranoid.”An image from a surveillance video shows Marion Police Department officers confiscating computers and cellphones from the publisher and staff of the Marion County Record on Aug.
(Marion County Record via AP)The Kansas Bureau of Investigation took over the Marion Police Department’s inquiry earlier this week and announced it would move forward “without review or examination of any of the evidence seized on Friday, Aug.
11.” It’s unclear if the bureau is investigating the police department, the newspaper or both.
The Wichita Eagle reported that Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, who was appointed earlier this year and signed off on the controversial search warrant, has her own history of DUI arrests.Journalistic organizations from across the state and country have backed the paper and expressed outrage over the police action.
Additionally, the paper has received 2,000 new subscriptions since last week, most of them digital, though some purchased in person by people stopping by the Record’s office to show their support.White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the raid at Wednesday’s press briefing.
While she said the Biden administration didn’t want to get ahead of the legal process, the incident had raised “a lot of concerns and a lot of questions for us.”“It is important to me … and to the president to reiterate, as he has done many times before, the freedom of the press,” she said.
“And that is the core value when we think about our democracy.” View comments