Local Kansas newspaper’s lawyer says all items seized in police raid to be returned

August 16, 2023

An attorney for Kansas newspaper The Marion County Record said all items seized in a police raid over the weekend will be returned. 

Bernie Rhodes said authorities told him that nothing was accessed from the seized computers, cellphones and reporting materials, though his team plans to independently confirm that claim.

A search warrant to raid the newspaper was authorized by a Marion County District Court judge after police said there was probable cause to believe there was identity theft and unlawful acts concerning computers. 

The newspaper’s 98-year-old co-owner Joan Meyer died the day after police raided her home, and the Marion County Record attributed her death to stress related to the incident.

The raid has raised First Amendment issues, with legal experts pointing to the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, which broadly prohibits law enforcement officials from searching for or seizing information from journalists. 

The warrant allowed police to confiscate documents related to the alleged identity theft of Marion restaurant owner Kari Newell, who had kicked newspaper staff out of a public forum.

According to the newspaper’s co-owner and publisher Eric Meyer, Joan’s son, a confidential source contacted the newspaper and provided evidence that Newell had been convicted of drunken driving and continued to use her vehicle without a driver’s license. But Meyer has insisted that no one’s identity was stolen in the course of the newspaper’s reporting.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, meanwhile, has released a statement regarding the investigation, saying: 

“At present time this investigation remains open, however, we have determined in collaboration with the Marion County Attorney, that the investigation will proceed independently, and without review or examination of any of the evidence seized on Friday, Aug. 11. We will work with the Marion County Record, or their representative, to coordinate the prompt return of all seized items. Once our investigation concludes we will present findings to the Marion County Attorney for review.” 

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