Police face criticism over Kansas newspaper raid wherein computer systems, telephones seized

Nationwide Information

An empty spot on reporter Phyllis Zorn’s desk exhibits the place the tower for her pc sat earlier than legislation enforcement officers seized it in a raid on the Marion County Document, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, in Marion County, Kan. AP Photograph/John Hanna

MARION, Kan. (AP) — A small central Kansas police division is going through a firestorm of criticism after it raided the places of work of a neighborhood newspaper and the house of its writer and proprietor — a transfer deemed by a number of press freedom watchdogs as a blatant violation of the U.S. Structure’s safety of a free press.

The Marion County Document stated in its personal revealed reviews that police raided the newspaper’s workplace on Friday, seizing the newspaper’s computer systems, telephones and file server and the private cellphones of employees, based mostly on a search warrant. One Document reporter suffered an damage to a finger when Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody wrested her cellphone out of her hand, based on the report.

Police concurrently raided the house of Eric Meyer, the newspaper’s writer and co-owner, seizing computer systems, his cellphone and the house’s web router, Meyer stated. Meyer’s 98-year-old mom — Document co-owner Joan Meyer, who lived within the dwelling along with her son — collapsed and died Saturday, Meyer stated, blaming her loss of life on the stress of the raid of her dwelling.

Meyer stated he believes the raid was prompted by a narrative revealed final week a couple of native restaurant proprietor, Kari Newell. Newell had police take away Meyer and a newspaper reporter from her restaurant early this month, who have been there to cowl a public reception for U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, a Republican representing the realm. The police chief and different officers additionally attended and have been acknowledged on the reception, and the Marion Police Division highlighted the occasion on its Fb web page.

The subsequent week at a metropolis council assembly, Newell publicly accused the newspaper of utilizing unlawful means to get data on the standing of her driver’s license following a 2008 drunken driving conviction and different driving violations. The newspaper countered that it acquired that data unsolicited, which it verified via public on-line data. It will definitely determined to not run a narrative, as a result of it wasn’t certain the supply who equipped it had obtained it legally. However the newspaper did run a narrative on the town council assembly, wherein Newell herself confirmed she’d had a DUI conviction and that she had continued to drive even after her license was suspended.

Meyer additionally famous that the newspaper was trying into the police chief’s background and why he left the Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, police division earlier than being employed in April as chief.

A two-page search warrant, signed by a neighborhood choose, lists Newell because the sufferer of alleged crimes by the newspaper. When the newspaper requested for a replica of the possible trigger affidavit required by legislation to situation a search warrant, the district court docket issued a signed assertion saying no such affidavit was on file, the Document reported.

Newell declined to remark Sunday, saying she was too busy to talk. She stated she would name again later Sunday to reply questions.

Cody, the police chief, defended the raid on Sunday, saying in an electronic mail to The Related Press that whereas federal legislation normally requires a subpoena — not only a search warrant — to raid a newsroom, there may be an exception “when there may be motive to consider the journalist is participating within the underlying wrongdoing.”

Cody didn’t give particulars about what that alleged wrongdoing entailed.

Cody, who was employed in late April as Marion’s police chief after serving 24 years within the Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, Police Division, didn’t reply to questions on whether or not police filed a possible trigger affidavit for the search warrant. He additionally didn’t reply questions on how police consider Newell was victimized.

Meyer stated the newspaper plans to sue the police division and probably others, calling the raid an unconstitutional violation of the First Modification’s free press assure.

“This, the longer I give it some thought, is nothing in need of an try to intimidate us, possibly to stop us from publishing,” he stated. “They didn’t need to undergo this. They didn’t need to undergo the drama.”

Press freedom and civil rights organizations agreed that police, the native prosecutor’s workplace and the choose who signed off on the search warrant overstepped their authority.

“It looks like one of the crucial aggressive police raids of a information group or entity in fairly a while,” stated Sharon Brett, authorized director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas. The breadth of the raid and the aggressiveness wherein it was carried out appears to be “fairly an alarming abuse of authority from the native police division,” Brett stated.

Seth Stern, director of advocacy for Freedom of the Press Basis, stated in an announcement that the raid appeared to have violated federal legislation, the First Modification, “and fundamental human decency.”

“This appears like the most recent instance of American legislation enforcement officers treating the press in a fashion beforehand related to authoritarian regimes,” Stern stated. “The anti-press rhetoric that’s turn into so pervasive on this nation has turn into extra than simply discuss and is making a harmful atmosphere for journalists attempting to do their jobs.”

Meyer stated the newspaper has been deluged with affords of assist.

″We’ve had folks volunteering to drive gear up from Texas and from Indiana,” he stated.

Beck reported from Omaha, Nebraska.

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