Monday 14 August 2023

98-Year-Old Kansas Newspaper Co-Owner Dies After Police Raid Office, Paper Says

 A 98-year-old co-owner of a small Kansas newspaper died Saturday, one day after a police raid on her home and the Marion County Record’s office building. 

Joan Meyer had been undergoing severe stress and emotional distress in the hours before her death, the Marion County Record reported. She was allegedly unable to eat or sleep after police conducted the raid. Authorities confiscated personal electronics, computers, the newspaper’s file server and other equipment, according to the outlet. Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody allegedly physically grabbed reporter Deb Gruver’s cell phone, reinjuring one of her fingers in the process.

Cody later defended the raid, saying, “the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated,” according to CBS News. “It is true that in most cases, it requires police to use subpoenas, rather than search warrants, to search the premises of journalists unless they themselves are suspects in the offense that is the subject of the search,” he added. 

“Our first priority is to be able to publish next week,” the Record publisher Eric Meyer said, the outlet reported. “But we also want to make sure no other news organization is ever exposed to the Gestapo tactics we witnessed today. We will be seeking the maximum sanctions possible under law.”

The Privacy Protection Act, a federal law designed to safeguard journalists and news organizations from unjustified searches by law enforcement, generally requires subpoenas instead of search warrants. However, the search warrant authorized by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar appeared to contradict the federal law by allowing the seizure of materials from journalists, the Kansas Reflector reported

The search warrant allegedly used for the recent raid indicated the police were investigating potential cases of identity theft and unlawful computer-related activities, according to the Marion County Record. The warrant also specifically mentioned a search for documents related to Kari Newell, a local restaurateur, the outlet reported.  

The Record is expected to file a federal suit against the City of Marion and those involved in the search, the newspaper wrote.

“Journalists rely on confidential sources to report on matters of vital public concern,” Shannon Jankowski, PEN America’s journalism and disinformation program director, wrote in a statement Aug. 12. “Law enforcement’s sweeping raid on The Marion County Record and confiscation of its equipment almost certainly violates federal law and puts the paper’s very ability to publish the news in jeopardy.” 

PEN America is a literature and human rights advocacy organization that seeks to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide.

“Such egregious attempts to interfere with news reporting cannot go unchecked in a democracy. Law enforcement can, and should, be held accountable for any violations of The Record’s legal rights,” Jankowski continued.

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