Timeline breakdown: Marion police raid newspaper office, owner’s home

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – The Marion County Record’s Owner, Eric Meyer, said local police raided the newspaper’s office and his home Friday, seizing computers, cellphones and reporting materials.

The incident, now in national and international news headlines, is also sparking response from press freedom groups raising constitutional questions.

Meyer confirmed with 12 News that he was served a search warrant from the Marion Police Department Friday. He said he believed the raid was due to a story published by the paper Wednesday about a local restaurant owner.

Marion County Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar signed off on that search warrant Friday morning.

In the search warrant, it stated law enforcement were allowed to seize items including “documents and records pertaining to Kari Newell,” the restaurant owner who the Marion County Record published about Wednesday. The warrant also allowed for the seizure of computers and devices used to “participate in the identity theft of Kari Newell.”

12 News confirmed with Meyer, Newell and the Marion Police Department a timeline of the events leading up to the raid Friday.

  • Tuesday, August 1: Marion Police posted to Facebook about a public forum for Congressman Jake LaTurner at a local Marion restaurant, Kari’s Kitchen.
  • Marion County Record owner Eric Meyer said he and staff were told to leave public forum by Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody at the request of restaurant owner Kari Newell.
  • Wednesday, August 2: Meyer said Record’s reporter received Facebook message from a source alleging Newell was driving without a license and had a prior DUI conviction. Paper said it looked into these claims due to an upcoming vote on Newell garnering a liquor license. Kansas law states you can’t have a felony DUI conviction to obtain a liquor license. You must also have a state driver’s license.
  • Friday, August 4: Meyer said he sent a note with the Record’s findings to Chief Cody. Meyer said the paper didn’t plan on publishing the findings.
  • Meyer said City of Marion Vice Mayor Ruth Herbal asked the Record to send her the information they had obtained about Newell because the city council was set to vote on the approval of her liquor license.
  • Monday, August 7: City council approves liquor license in four to one vote.
  • At the meeting, Newell claims the Record obtained her personal information illegally and shared it with the Vice Mayor. In her official statement to 12 News, Newell said she believes the paper accessed her information through a piece of her mail from the Kansas Department of Revenue. She reported that to police.
  • Wednesday, August 9: The Record published article about the accusations and council meeting.
  • Friday, August 11: Marion County Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar signed search warrant that alleges violations of identity theft and “unlawful acts concerning computers” regarding Newell.
  • The Marion Police Department, with assistance from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, raid Meyer’s home, Herbal’s home and the Marion County Record’s office obtaining computers, cell phones and reporting materials.

Kansas Bureau of Investigations Communications Director Melissa Underwood confirmed it’s involved in the investigation of the allegations in a statement:

“The Marion Police Department and the Marion County Attorney asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) to join an investigation into allegations of illegal access and dissemination of confidential criminal justice information. The KBI assigned an agent to this case last Tuesday, and has been assisting since that time. The KBI agent did not apply for the search warrants in question, and he was not present when the warrants were served.

Director Mattivi believes very strongly that freedom of the press is a vanguard of American democracy. Without free speech and a free press, our society is not likely to see appropriate accountability of public officials. But another principle of our free society is equal application of the law. The KBI is entrusted to investigate credible allegations of illegal activity without fear or favor. In order to investigate and gather facts, the KBI commonly executes search warrants on police departments, sheriff’s offices, and at city, county and state offices. We have investigated those who work at schools, churches and at all levels of public service. No one is above the law, whether a public official or a representative of the media.”

Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody posted to the department’s Facebook page Saturday in response to the reports:

“The Marion Kansas Police Department has has several inquiries regarding an ongoing investigation. As much as I would like to give everyone details on a criminal investigation I cannot. I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated. I appreciate all the assistance from all the State and Local investigators along with the entire judicial process thus far. Speaking in generalities, the federal Privacy Protection Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000aa-2000aa-12, does protect journalists from most searches of newsrooms by federal and state law enforcement officials. 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. The Act requires criminal investigators to get a subpoena instead of a search warrant when seeking “work product materials” and “documentary materials” from the press, except in circumstances, including: (1) when there is reason to believe the journalist is taking part in the underlying wrongdoing. The Marion Kansas Police Department believes it is the fundamental duty of the police is to ensure the safety, security, and well-being of all members of the public. This commitment must remain steadfast and unbiased, unaffected by political or media influences, in order to uphold the principles of justice, equal protection, and the rule of law for everyone in the community. The victim asks that we do all the law allows to ensure justice is served. The Marion Kansas Police Department will nothing less.”

12 News talked with Newell Sunday where the restaurant owner declined an interview. She did provide her official statement below:

“I am not a lawyer or journalist but even I am capable of understanding logic and utilizing Google. It’s truly beyond me how people think I alone am capable of having a newspaper raided. Even in small town America we have the same processes any larger city does to make this happen. I am not the one that incited the investigation,  the police department and a council member made me aware my information was compromised and being sent out to others. It was originally investigated as mail theft until they were able to determine that rather, my personal information was used to impersonate me to gain the information.  (Identify theft) . This isn’t a civil situation it is criminal and the state is going forward with a full investigation. Drivers Privacy Protection act… look it up. It is in all 50 states and is FEDERAL law.   My personal information was illegaly obtained, illegally shared, illegally held. Further, it wasn’t  my driving record but rather a piece of mail addressed to ME from the kansas department of revenue that disclosed my address, DL# and DOB.  They then used the information on the letter as credentials to access my private files. Again, Identify theft. I was in no way concerned about a 15 year old DUI getting out, nor information I had driven without a license. I have a license currently.  That was simply a click bait move to incite a skewed opinion in the case. Federal protection act does not apply when the media outlet being searched is being investigated for the crimes committed. It is a protection in place to keep raids from occurring to obtain evidence in a criminal case they are NOT a part of. Media is not exempt from the laws they blast others for not following.  Unethical journalism 101. Again, I am eligible for a liquor license, as the dui was 15 years ago and on a diversion. There was no accident and no injury involved.  No subsequent alcohol infractions have occurred.  No felonies and zero non traffic violations criminal or otherwise. While a dui is public information, my personal information is not. The police were simply doing their job, it takes MULTIPLE people within a process to get a search warrant.  No single person is capable of making that call. From KBI down to local police and everyone in-between it had to be approved and signed off on. This particular paper has a LONG standing reputation of contortion. Our local community by large is FED up. A quick search and you’ll see several posts and comments supporting that very statement. I am I’m no way involved romantically or otherwise with ANYONE within the department or anywhere for that matter. There was no bribery of any sort, I’m not certain where that rumor even got any traction.  The Slanderous claims and defamation are amuck. This goes beyond the newspaper,  a local city council member was involved.  Misuse of office and abuse of power. The confidential informant that the paper speaks of is tied to my soon to be ex husband and in a unified attempted to gain leverage in divorce proceedings. If this was your Driver’s license number, your address, date of birth, social security number; would you be comfortable with that information laying on someone’s desk who should not have that information? How about if they downloaded it illegally? Shared it with others that have absolutely zero ties or interest in my information? The victim shaming culture is sad and an injustice. I have received false reviews, nasty hateful messages and comments and borderline threats. The sheer amount of defamation and slander is overwhelming.  Going after my kids is disgusting and intolerable. In full transparency, providing the final criminal outcome and potential civil suit arising, I will release any evidence I am able to at the conclusion.”

12 News talked with the Committee based in Washington D.C. about the raid. It said it sent the four-page letter attached below to Marion Police Chief Cody Sunday, condemning the raid:

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press letter to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press letter to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody.(KWCH)
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody...
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody Sunday in response to a police raid Friday.(KWCH)
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press letter to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press letter to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody.(KWCH)
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press letter to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press letter to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody.(KWCH)

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