State Agency Declares Legal the Initial Online Search Leading to Kansas Newspaper Raid

by Gabriel Martinez
Kansas newspaper raid

Certainly, here is the paraphrased and coherent text:

The search of a state website that initiated a police chief from central Kansas to raid a local weekly newspaper is legal, according to a spokesperson from the agency maintaining the site. The announcement was made on Monday, accompanied by the release of a video displaying the publisher’s 98-year-old mother vehemently protesting the search at their residence.

Earlier this month, the Marion County Record and the publisher’s home were raided following an accusation by a local restaurant owner that the paper illegally accessed information about her. Subsequently, a prosecutor noted that the evidence was inadequate to justify the raids, and some seized computers and mobile phones were returned.

The video revealed the distress caused by the raid to the publisher’s mother, Joan Meyer, who passed away the following day. The surveillance footage showed her confronting the officers, demanding they leave and not touch anything.

The event has placed the Record and the town of around 1,900 inhabitants at the core of a conversation about press freedoms as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and Kansas’ Bill of Rights. Local politics and the newspaper’s reporting of the community have also come into focus, highlighting divisions within the town. Police Chief Gideon Cody, who led the August 11th raids, is now under scrutiny.

Residents, including Darvin Markley, expressed frustration at Monday’s City Council meeting, with some calling for Cody’s dismissal. Cody did not attend the meeting and has not responded to inquiries.

In affidavits to obtain the warrants, Cody claimed to have probable cause to believe that the newspaper and a City Council member, whose home was also raided, had breached state laws. Both parties denied any wrongdoing.

Ruth Herbel, the city’s vice mayor, presided over the meeting, lasting less than an hour. The council will address the raids in a future meeting.

Kansas Department of Revenue spokesperson Zack Denney clarified that accessing the driver’s license database online to check a license status is legal. The site even allows download or purchase of driving records.

The publisher, Meyer, has stated intentions to sue over the raid, laying blame on the stress of the raid for his mother’s passing.

An ongoing investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation continues into the newspaper’s actions. Meanwhile, the police seizure of items from the newspaper and publisher’s home, including computers, personal phones, and a router, continues to draw scrutiny. Legal experts argue that the raid may have violated federal or state laws pertaining to journalistic privacy.

Among the items seized was equipment belonging to a reporter who had been probing the reason behind Cody’s departure from a previous police position in Kansas City, Missouri. The newspaper, noted for its assertive coverage of the community, is also criticized by some residents as overly critical.

Local politicians Powers and Markley emphasized the importance of accountability in this matter, with Markley stating, “The world is watching Marion.”

Reporters Heather Hollingsworth and Jim Salter contributed to this report. John Hanna can be followed on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna.

The Big Big News receives support from several private foundations to augment its coverage of elections and democracy. The AP is exclusively accountable for all content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Kansas newspaper raid

What initiated the police raid on a Kansas newspaper?

The raid was initiated after a local restaurant owner accused the Marion County Record of illegally accessing information about her. The police chief of central Kansas, believing there was probable cause for violations of state laws, led the raid on the newspaper’s offices and the publisher’s home.

Was the initial online search that led to the raid legal?

Yes, a spokesperson for the agency that maintains the state website where the information was accessed declared that the initial online search was legal.

What was the community’s reaction to the raid?

The community’s reaction was divided. Some residents called for the dismissal of Police Chief Gideon Cody, while others criticized the newspaper’s reporting. The event has also sparked a broader debate about press freedoms and local politics.

What is the legal status of accessing driver’s license information online in Kansas?

According to the Kansas Department of Revenue spokesperson, it is legal to access the driver’s license database online to check a person’s license status using information obtained independently.

Will there be any legal action following the raid?

The newspaper’s publisher, Eric Meyer, has stated his intentions to file a lawsuit over the raid. Legal experts are also scrutinizing the raid for potential violations of federal or state laws pertaining to journalistic privacy.

What was the impact of the raid on the publisher’s family?

The video released by the newspaper shows the publisher’s 98-year-old mother, Joan Meyer, protesting the search of their home. She passed away the next day, and Meyer attributes her death to the stress of the raid.

How has the incident affected the police chief’s standing?

Police Chief Gideon Cody has come under intense scrutiny following the raids, and some community members are calling for his dismissal. The incident has put a spotlight on his background and leadership.

What is the current status of the seized equipment?

As of Monday, some cellphones and computer towers belonging to the newspaper’s staff were returned, while other items remained with a computer forensics audit firm for examination. The newspaper is still waiting for the return of additional computers, hard drives, and a router.

More about Kansas newspaper raid

  • Kansas Bill of Rights
  • U.S. First Amendment
  • Kansas Department of Revenue
  • Kansas Bureau of Investigation
  • Follow John Hanna on Twitter
  • The Big Big News’ democracy initiative

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Linda Hammond August 22, 2023 - 9:36 pm

This whole situation seems so overblown! I’ve known the chief for years, and I know he has his reasons. Lets just wait for all the facts

James McCalister August 23, 2023 - 1:31 am

i cant believe what happened to that poor woman, the police should have been more compassionate and understanding. Its a shame.

Sarah T. Johnson August 23, 2023 - 2:52 am

Why did this have to happen in our town, we were such a peaceful community. It’s brought so much division. What’s the police chief thinking!

Tom R. August 23, 2023 - 10:22 am

didn’t know you could even check driver’s license online, what a mess this is, somethings gotta change, I hope the newspaper wins their case

Kevin42 August 23, 2023 - 12:42 pm

Press freedom is important, but whats the paper doing? some say they dig to deep. It’s just a small town paper after all, rite?

Nancy F. August 23, 2023 - 4:33 pm

Our community will never be the same after this. People taking sides, friendships ruined. its just so tragic. Police needs to rethink their actions!


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