Police chief stands by extensive raid of Kansas newspaper

The paper has called the raid illegal, but the police chief says it is justified when journalists are suspects in the offense that the warrant is about.

Published: August 14, 2023 10:08am

The Marion Police Department says its raid of a Kansas newspaper's office and the home of the paper's owners was justified without a subpoena because the law allows raids when a reporter is a suspect in an offense.

Marion's entire five-officer police force and two sheriff's deputies on Friday raided the Marion County Record's office as well as the home of Joan Meyer and her son, Eric Meyer, on Friday. Joan Meyer, who was 98 but in "otherwise good health for her age," according to the Record, died Saturday after being stressed from the raid.

The warrant contained allegations of identity theft and unlawful computer use. The raid was executed after Meyer said he went to the police about a source who told him about the drunken driving conviction of local restaurant owner Kari Newell, who then claimed the paper illegally obtained classified information about her.

"As much as I would like to give everyone details on a criminal investigation I cannot. I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated," Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody told Just the News in a statement late Sunday evening.

Federal law requires police in most cases to subpoena materials from journalists rather than obtaining them through a search warrant, which Cody acknowledged. 

"It is true that in most cases, it requires police to use subpoenas, rather than search warrants, to search the premises of journalists unless they themselves are suspects in the offense that is the subject of the search," he wrote, including the emphasis.

The law requires a subpoena for materials from the press except "when there is reason to believe the journalist is taking part in the underlying wrongdoing," Cody also wrote in bold.

"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," he also said.

Eric Meyer's paper has said the raid, which involved the seizure of his electronics and bank account information, was illegal. 

"It’s going to have a chilling effect on us even tackling issues," he told the Kansas Reflector. He also said it would have "a chilling effect on people giving us information." 

Eric Meyer was a teacher for reporter Madeleine Hubbard while she attended the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Follow Madeleine Hubbard on Twitter or Instagram.

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