Kansas Newspaper Police Raid Linked to Alleged Impersonation, Court Documents Reveal

by Gabriel Martinez
fokus keyword: raid

In previously undisclosed court papers, the police chief who directed the raid on a Kansas newspaper charged that a reporter may have either impersonated someone or falsified her intentions to obtain the driving records of a local entrepreneur.

However, reporter Phyllis Zorn, along with Marion County Record Editor and Publisher Eric Meyer and the paper’s attorney, asserted on Sunday that Zorn’s access to information about restaurant owner Kari Newell on a state public website did not break any laws.

The international spotlight turned to the small central Kansas town following the raid, led by Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody, on Aug. 11. The situation has spurred discussions about press freedom. Although computers, personal phones, and a router were confiscated from the newspaper, they were returned on Wednesday, as the county prosecutor found insufficient evidence to back the actions.

Late on Saturday, Bernie Rhodes, the attorney for the Record, shared the affidavits used for the raid with The Big Big News and other media outlets. These previously unreleased documents disclosed that the acquisition of Newell’s driving record by Zorn prompted the raid.

Acting on an anonymous tip, the newspaper looked up the Kansas Department of Revenue’s public website for details regarding Newell’s driver’s license status in connection to a 2008 DUI conviction.

Cody’s affidavit stated that the Department of Revenue informed him that the information was downloaded by Zorn and someone using Newell’s name. He reached out to Newell, who believed her identity was stolen, leading Cody to claim that the downloading act involved deception or impersonation.

Although usually confidential, the license records can be accessed under certain conditions, as noted in the affidavit. For instance, the records can be provided for legal matters, insurance inquiries, and statistical research, provided personal details remain undisclosed.

Zorn clarified that her actions were legal and followed guidance from the Department of Revenue. Meyer revealed that they had Newell’s information but chose not to write about her record. The state investigation into potential legal violations continues, with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation now in charge.

Legal experts argue that the raid may have infringed federal privacy law that protects journalists, as well as a Kansas law that restricts compelling reporters to reveal sources or unpublished content.

Cody has remained silent on requests for comment but defended the raid on Facebook, arguing that exceptions exist for journalists involved in wrongdoing.

The Record has seen significant support and gained thousands of new subscribers since the incident. Meyer also attributes the stress from the raid to the death of his 98-year-old mother, Joan Meyer, the paper’s co-owner, whose funeral was held on Saturday.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword: raid

What prompted the police raid on the Kansas newspaper?

The raid was prompted by allegations that reporter Phyllis Zorn impersonated someone or lied about her intentions to obtain the driving records of a local restaurant owner. Court documents revealed that this action was the driving force behind the raid.

Who led the police raid, and when did it occur?

Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody led the raid, and it was carried out on August 11.

What were the consequences of the raid on the newspaper?

The police seized computers, personal cellphones, and a router from the newspaper, but all items were released later when the county prosecutor found insufficient evidence. The raid brought international attention and led to a debate over press freedoms. It also led to an increase in subscribers for the newspaper.

Did the reporter break any laws by accessing the driving records?

The newspaper’s representatives, including the reporter, the editor, and their attorney, have stated that no laws were broken when the driving records were accessed from a public state website. The investigation into whether any state laws were violated continues.

What has been the community and media response to the raid?

The raid has received substantial attention, with an outpouring of support for the newspaper from other news organizations and media groups. Legal experts have also weighed in, with some believing the raid may have violated federal privacy law and a Kansas law related to protecting journalists.

Who was the local business owner whose driving records were obtained?

The driving records belonged to Kari Newell, a local restaurant operator. Her driving record was checked in relation to a 2008 conviction for drunk driving.

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Jake Smith August 21, 2023 - 11:09 am

So, the reporter just looked up some public info and they got raided? doesn’t seem right to me. what do you guys think?

Marianne T. August 21, 2023 - 4:20 pm

Press freedoms are at stake here! I’m worried about the precedent this sets, could affect a lot more than one small town paper…

sarah-jane92 August 21, 2023 - 4:40 pm

This is clear intimidation, they raided a newspaper for something like this? where’s the sense in that? Seems like an overreaction on part of the police.

TommyK August 21, 2023 - 5:18 pm

Wait, so the newspaper gained more subscribers because of the raid? Talk about a silver lining. Strange times we live in.

HenryG August 21, 2023 - 8:57 pm

i can’t believe the stress from this led to the death of the owner’s mother, that’s really tragic. Hope they find out the truth soon and justice is served.


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