American journalists were stunned after learning a small town police force raided offices of The Marion County Record Friday.
Kari Newell, owner of Kari’s Kitchen, in Marion, Kansas, sicced town police on the small-town newspaper, alleging reporters illegally obtained a record of her DUI.
Magistrate Laura Viar approved a warrant request from the small town’s chief of police, Gideon Cody, to raid the newspaper’s office and seize files and computers.
The weekly newspaper, which has served Marion County since 1869, has about 4,000 subscribers. The newspaper claims its 98-year-old publisher died as a result of the unprecedent raid of her home.
Police stormed the home of co-publisher Joan Meyer and seized computers, phones and some of her personal belongings, including the router that connected her Alexa speakers.
“This is the type of stuff that, you know, Vladimir Putin does, that Third World dictators do,” Eric Meyer, 69, edited and publisher of the newspaper, told The Associated Press. “This is Gestapo tactics from World War II.”
“These are Hitler tactics and something has to be done,” Joan Meyer told Wichita Eagle reporter Dion Lefler.
The Hitler comment “turned out to be one of the last things she ever said,” Lefler wrote. “Mrs. Meyer complained of feeling upset and stressed by the invasion of her home when she spoke to us on Friday.”
The newspaper’s co-owner, she was so traumatized by the police raid of her home she couldn’t eat or sleep, according to a report from The Kansas City Star.
“Stressed beyond her limits and overwhelmed by hours of shock and grief after an illegal police raid on her home and the Marion County Record newspaper office Friday,” her paper reported, “98-year-old newspaper owner Joan Meyer, otherwise in good health for her age, collapsed Saturday afternoon and died at her home.”
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and more than 30 news media organizations condemned Friday’s police raid of the Marion County Record.
The Society of Professional Journalists pledged $20,000 to help cover the newspaper’s legal defense, according to The Associated Press.
The New York Post characterized the actions of Marion Police Chief Cody and his officers as a “Gestapo-style” raid on a small town newspaper. The tabloid revealed the chief may have been enacting a little revenge against the paper.
Turns out the Marion County Record had been investigating Cody, 54, after receiving an “outpouring of calls” alleging he left his last police job to avoid demotion after facing allegations of sexual misconduct.
Cody retired from the Kansas City, Missouri, police force as a captain after 24 years of service, the Post reported, before joining Marion County’s PD.
Co-publisher Eric Meyer said the Record was contacted by Cody’s former colleagues, who revealed the claims of sexual misconduct, according to a report published on The Handbasket, which is on Substack.
The six-plus anonymous sources never agreed to speak on the record and reporters couldn’t obtain Cody’s personnel file, so no report of the claims were published before the raid.
If Newell wished to hide a drunk driving conviction, that effort failed spectacularly, like any desire Cody had of burying reports of official misconduct alleged against him.
Cody defended the newspaper raid, claiming it was conducted legally.
Jared Smith, a lifelong Marion resident, said Monday that he supports the police raid.
Smith accused the newspaper of ruining his wife’s year-old day spa business by reporting she had appeared nude in a magazine years before, the AP report noted.
Authorities appeared unprepared for the public backlash the raids generated, and involved agencies refused to comment Monday or expressed the need for the right of the freedom of the press and the ability of police to investigate journalists.
Journalists reporting news should not be a crime but the Marion County Record may well wonder if they, like Dorothy, are not in Kansas anymore.
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