Kansas News Outlet Raided By Local Police, Who Seize Computers, Phones, Records

A raid by police in Marion, Kansas on the home and office of a newspaper publisher is being blamed for contributing to the death of the publisher’s 98-year-old mother.

Joan Meyer, who was a coowner of the Marion County Record, died at her home after being “stressed beyond her limits and overwhelmed by hours of shock and grief,” the Record reported. She was “otherwise in good health for her age,” the media outlet claimed.

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 during a council meeting earlier this week.

Five officers – the full contingent of the Marion Police Dept. — along with two sheriff’s deputies came to the Record offices on Friday and took “everything we have,” the newspaper’s publisher and coowner 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.

Eric Meyer told CNN he was at home with his mother. She “tearfully watched” as police took away her computer, a router and her Alexa smart speakers.

He told the Reflector and 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.

The Record is expected to file a federal lawsuit against the city of Marion, according to the paper’s report.

“Based on the reporting so far, the police raid of the Marion County Record on Friday appears to have violated federal law, the First Amendment, and basic human decency,” Seth Stern, director of advocacy for Freedom of the Press Foundation, said in a statement.

“Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.”

The Marion Police Department said on social media that the federal Privacy Protection Act protects journalists from searches.

But the department argued that the law doesn’t apply “when there is reason to believe the journalist is taking part in the underlying wrongdoing.”

The statement added that the “victim asks that we do all the law allows to ensure justice is served.”

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