Police Raid On Kansas Newspaper Offices Leads To Reporter’s $235K Settlement

A former reporter at The Marion County Record, a Kansas weekly newspaper, has reached a $235,000 settlement as part of a lawsuit she filed over a search by police.

The June 25 settlement came from the lawsuit filed by the former reporter, Deb Gruver, against Gideon Cody, the former Marion police chief.

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Gruver’s lawsuit claimed Cody caused injury to her hand while forcibly obtaining her personal cellphone during the raid on the newspaper.

On Aug. 11, 2023, local police and county sheriff’s deputies raided The Record offices and the homes of a councilwoman and the newspaper’s publisher. The raid stemmed from allegations against a local restaurateur in an unpublished story that police became aware of.

The raid sparked a national debate over First Amendment rights and the duties of a free press.

The raid also sparked outrage after the 98-year-old co-publisher of the newspaper died of a heart attack when her home was raided.

The local prosecutor, Joel Ensey, said in a statement after the raid that after reviewing the police force’s application for a warrant, he had “come to the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists to establish a legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized.”

Clayton Weimers, the executive director of Reporters Without Borders, called for a greater explanation as to how the search and seizure was allowed to be conducted at all.

The raid by the Marion Police Department stemmed from a complaint by a local restaurant owner. Kari Newell accused the Record of illegally obtaining information about her.

Five officers – the full contingent of the Marion Police Dept. — along with two sheriff’s deputies came to the Record offices and took “everything we have,” the newspaper’s publisher and co-owner Eric Meyer told the Kansas Reflector, a nonprofit news site.

Computers, including the newspaper’s file service, and personal cell phones of staff members were taken, the Record reported.

Meyer wrote in a Record article that Newell, who was trying to obtain a liquor license, had been convicted of drunk driving and had driven without a license.

Meyer said he ultimately decided against publishing the story. Instead, he notified police, who launched an investigation and obtained a search warrant for evidence of identity theft and criminal use of a computer.

A search warrant, posted online by the Reflector, was approved by a judge, citing probable cause that crimes were committed.

“Basically, all the law enforcement officers on duty in Marion County, Kansas, descended on our offices today and seized our server and computers and personal cellphones of staff members all because of a story we didn’t publish,” Meyer said in the aftermath.

Lawsuits filed by four other employees of the newspaper against the police remain pending.

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