The Marion County Record, the small-town Kansas newspaper raided by the local police department last Friday, had reportedly been investigating sexual misconduct allegations against the chief.
Last week, First Amendment rights advocates were alarmed upon learning that the Marion, Kansas, police department had raided the local newspaper’s offices, confiscating computers, cell phones, hard drives, and a whole host of materials. Officers also seized materials from the home of journalist Eric Meyer, publisher and co-owner of the newspaper. Meyer claimed that his 98-year-old mother passed away one day after the raid on his house due to the stress of the situation.
“The U.S. Supreme Court, over the years, has said that people in authority — government officials — have to suffer a free press,” said Sandy Banisky, a lawyer who taught media law at the University of Maryland’s journalism school. “Incidents like this have to be examined and exposed thoroughly to be sure that the kind of raid that happened in Marion, Kansas doesn’t happen around the country.”
In the months leading up to the raid, the newspaper had been running a background check on the incoming Police Chief Gideon Cody. After publishing a story about his candidacy for police chief in the 2,000-resident town, the Marion County Record reportedly received a flood of tips about Cody’s tenure before retiring from the Kansas City Police Department.
“It was alarming, to say the least, the number of people who came forward, and some of the allegations they made were fairly serious,” Eric Meyer told NPR. “We were simply looking into the question.”
Meyer said the paper received claims of alleged sexual misconduct from over six anonymous sources who refused to go on the record. He added that the police chief knew the paper had been looking into his background. Meyer even claims the chief had threatened to sue the paper, adding he had a “reason to not like us.” Since officers seized the newspaper’s computers, Meyer said they can no longer consult with sources in their investigation.
“We can’t consult our source material,” he said. “It’s been taken away from us.”
Meyer also said that the police chief changed a “decades-long practice of releasing a list of the department’s routine activities each week,” which the paper would publish in its weekly edition. Meyer said the chief abruptly halted the practice, citing “reasons of privacy.”
“Tracing back 60 years, it’s been a regular feature of the paper,” he said.
Meyer further told the Handbasket Substack that he feels “paranoid.”
“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,” Meyer said.
According to the New York Post, a “search warrant for the raid says it was issued over an allegation of ‘identity theft’ by its reporters”:
The claim was made by local restaurateur Kari Newell, after someone sent the paper and a member of the local council documents which showed she had a DUI, which would make it illegal for her to have a liquor license.
Newell also threw The Marion County Record’s reporters out of a public meeting held by a local congressman — which was attended by the police chief — and used a city council meeting to accuse the paper of illegally obtaining her DUI records, while admitting that she had a drunken driving record.
The paper never published her DUI details and Meyer denied acting illegally, claiming he believed they had been sent to the paper’s reporter, Deb Gruver, because of legal sparring between Newell, 46, and her ex-husband.
Police Chief Gideon Cody’s department said on Facebook that the raid is related to an “ongoing investigation.”
“The Marion Kansas Police Department believes it is the fundamental duty of the police is to ensure the safety, security, and well-being of all members of the public,” it said.
“This commitment must remain steadfast and unbiased, unaffected by political or media influences, in order to uphold the principles of justice, equal protection, and the rule of law for everyone in the community. The victim asks that we do all the law allows to ensure justice is served. The Marion Kansas Police Department will nothing less [sic],” it added.
Paul Roland Bois joined Breitbart News in 2021. He also directed the award-winning feature film, EXEMPLUM, which can be viewed for FREE on YouTube or Tubi. A high-quality, ad-free stream can also be purchased on Google Play or Vimeo on Demand. Follow him on Twitter @prolandfilms or Instagram @prolandfilms.