Local Police Stage a Bizarre Raid in the Offices of a Kansas Paper

The publisher said it was designed to tell reporters: “Mind your own business or we’re going to step on you.” 

David Zalubowski/AP

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Local law enforcement in Marion, Kansas, seized cell phones, computers, and other material from the office of the Marion County Record, its reporters, and the home of its publisher, according to reporting from the Kansas Reflector, a nonprofit newsroom.  

Eric Meyer, the Record’s publisher and owner, said the raid came after an anonymous source leaked information about a local restaurant owner to the paper. Meyer said it was designed to warn reporters: “Mind your own business or we’re going to step on you.” 

All five officers from the city police force, along with two sheriff’s deputies, took “everything we have,” Meyer said. According to the Reflector, the search may have violated federal protections for journalists: 

The search warrant, signed by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, appears to violate federal law that provides protections against searching and seizing materials from journalists. The law requires law enforcement to subpoena materials instead. Viar didn’t respond to a request to comment for this story or explain why she would authorize a potentially illegal raid.

The paper reported last week that Kari Newell, a local restaurant owner, had kicked members of the press out of a meeting with Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kansas). Newell responded by writing what the Reflector described as “hostile comments” on her Facebook page. 

From there, a complicated saga ensued in which an anonymous source leaked information to the paper about how Newell had been convicted of driving under the influence and continued to drive without a license. Newell decided not to publish those details after concluding that they might have been provided by Newell’s husband, who has filed for divorce.

Meyer told the police about the leak, who then told Newell. The restaurant owner went on to falsely accuse the paper of obtaining information illegally. Soon after, the police showed up at the Record’s office and Newell’s home with a search warrant. The Reflector notes: 

The search warrant identifies two pages worth of items that law enforcement officers were allowed to seize, including computer software and hardware, digital communications, cellular networks, servers and hard drives, items with passwords, utility records, and all documents and records pertaining to Newell. The warrant specifically targeted ownership of computers capable of being used to “participate in the identity theft of Kari Newell.”

The computers that were seized included legal notices and advertisements that are supposed to appear in next week’s issue of the paper.  “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Meyer said. “We will publish something.”

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