County Attorney Cancels Search Warrant In Kansas Newspaper Raid

Eric Meyer

Eric Meyer

Following his raid of a local newspaper, Marion, Kansas, Police Chief Gideon Cody said, “I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated.” Days later, County Attorney Joel Ensey has withdrawn the search warrant Cody used to storm the offices of the Marion County Record and its publisher’s home.

The county attorney’s statement is … interesting:

On Monday, August 14, 2023, I reviewed in detail the warrant application made Friday, August 11, 2023 to search various locations in Marion County, including the office of the Marion County Record. The affidavits, which I am asking the court to release, established probable cause to believe that an employee of the newspaper may have committed the crime of K.S.A. 21-5839, Unlawful Acts Concerning Computers. Upon further review, however, I have come to the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists to establish a legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized.

Does it sound to anyone else like the county attorney is saying that he had not reviewed in detail the warrant application before the search was conducted? And only went back and looked at it “in detail” after there was a public firestorm over the search of the office of a newspaper, a business that should receive extra protections in the name of freedom of the press? It seems like the careful review should have happened first, and the fact that it didn’t raises more questions about the legal system rather than vindicating it. Ensey is also the same guy who was telling reporters over the weekend that the affidavit was not a public document. Now he’s asking for it to be released.

Additionally, in this case the newspaper’s publisher raised concerns that the paper had been investigating sexual misconduct allegations against the very same chief of police who was on the scene for the search in which computers were seized that had confidential information about the sources making those allegations. And just to make the whole thing that much more appalling, the 98-year-old mother of the publisher died suddenly the day after the search of her home.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is now leading the investigation into whatever crimes the Record is alleged to have committed. As a reminder, the pretext for the search warrant was that the newspaper may have illegally obtained information about the drunk driving record of a local restaurant owner. That’s not the sort of thing that typically leads to multiple police officers descending on a newspaper office and the publisher’s private home and seizing computer equipment. In fact, there are few things that typically lead to multiple police officers descending on a newspaper office and seizing computer equipment, at least in the United States. It’s not an everyday occurrence.

The KBI investigation will proceed “without review or examination of any of the evidence seized on Friday, August 11.” Bernie Rhodes, the attorney representing the newspaper, told the KSHB 41 I-Team that a forensics expert would examine the materials that were returned.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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