Kansas Police Seize Newspaper Records and Computers

They're trying that in a small town

A small town newspaper owner and publisher in Kansas had his office and home raided on Friday by local law enforcement officers, who seized computers, cell phones, and other materials.

The city’s entire five-officer police force and two sheriff’s deputies took “everything we have,” Meyer said, and it wasn’t clear how the newspaper staff would take the weekly publication to press Tuesday night.

Eric Meyer

Eric Meyer, of the Marion County Record, said he was at home with his 98-year-old mother at the time of the raid. His mother died less than 24 hours later.

The story behind the story:

Meyer was attempting to cover a public meeting at a local coffee shop where U.S. Rep Jake LaTurner (R) was scheduled to speak. The owner of the coffee shop, Kari Newell, asked Meyer and his reporter to leave, even though it was a public meeting.

Kari’s Kitchen Coffee Shop

When Meyer reported being kicked out of the public meeting, Ms. Newell responded with hostile comments on her personal Facebook page.

Newell stated that she believes the newspaper “has a long-standing reputation for twisting and contorting comments within our community.”

A confidential source contacted the newspaper about Newell’s previous conviction of DUI in 2008, and said Newell had continued to drive without a license. Meyer suspected that the information was funneled through Newell’s husband, who had filed for divorce. Meyer chose not to publish the information, but contacted police about the situation. The conviction could have jeopardized Newell’s efforts to obtain a liquor license for her catering business.

When Newell was notified by police, she complained at a city council meeting that the newspaper had unlawfully obtained sensitive documents. The newspaper followed up with a report of the truth.

The raid:

According to Meyer, police offered no explanation for the raid, and said he was given a copy of a search warrant after the search.

Meyer tried to obtain a probable cause affidavit that would support the search warrant, he said, but the judge who issued the search warrant responded in a letter there was no such probable cause warrant in her office.

The police attempt justification:

Marion Police Department Chief Gideon Cody was not able to provide details on the raid, saying it remains an ongoing criminal investigation – but offered a justification.

“I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated,” said Chief Cody.

Freedom of the Press Foundation gets involved:

The Freedom of the Press Foundation released a statement in response to Friday’s incident, saying the raid appears to have violated federal law and is “the latest example of American law enforcement officers treating the press in a manner previously associated with authoritarian regimes.”

“Based on the reporting so far, the police raid of the Marion County Record on Friday appears to have violated federal law, the First Amendment, and basic human decency. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves,” said Seth Stern, director of advocacy for Freedom of the Press Foundation.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s statement on the matter: “At the request of the Marion Police Department, on Tuesday, Aug. 8, we began an investigation into allegations of criminal wrongdoing in Marion, Kansas. The investigation is ongoing.”

CNN, The Kansas Reflector, The Marion Record