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Police Carry Out ‘Illegal’ Raid on News Outlet, Seize ‘Everything’ After Report on Local Business

Civil liberties advocates are accusing a police department in Kansas of violating the First Amendment after the agency conducted a raid on a local newspaper. The Marion Police Department seized numerous electronic devices and press materials during a raid on the office of the Marion County Record on Friday, according to the Kansas Reflector. The raid followed the outlet’s research on a local restaurant owner, Kari Newell, who had kicked reporters from the Record out of a town hall meeting with Republican U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner. The Record’s co-owner and publisher, Eric Meyer, described the police raid as an act of intimidation and retribution on the part of local law enforcement. “Mind your own business or we’re going to step on you,” Meyer said, according to the Reflector. “It’s going to have a chilling effect on us even tackling issues,” he said, as well as “a chilling effect on people giving us information.” It had another effect, according to the Record: Meyer’s mother and the co-owner of the newspaper, 98-year-old Joan Meyer, died the day after the raid. The outlet reported she was “[s]tressed beyond her limits and overwhelmed by shock and grief after illegal police raids on her home” and the Record’s office. The Record had learned of the DUI conviction of the restaurant owner who barred its reporters from an event with LaTurner — information that could jeopardize Newell’s ability to obtain a liquor license. The outlet ultimately refrained from publishing information on the conviction. Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar signed off on a search warrant for the raid in spite of the legal implications of targeting a news outlet with such an act. The warrant authorized police to seize devices used to “participate in the identity theft of Kari Newell,” according to the Reflector. Surveillance camera footage of the raid revealed officers photographing and seizing digital devices belonging to the outlet. Emily Bradbury, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, described the raid as an attack on press freedoms in remarks provided to the Reflector. “An attack on a newspaper office through an illegal search is not just an infringement on the rights of journalists but an assault on the very foundation of democracy and the public’s right to know,” she said. “This cannot be allowed to stand.” Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody defended his department’s actions in an email statement provided to KSHB-TV’s Jessica McMaster. “The judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated,” Cody predicted. A representative of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation confirmed the state agency was investigating the situation in a statement to the Reflector. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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