Earlier this month, law enforcement officers raided a newspaper office in Kansas. During the raid, police took computers, cell phones, and other electronics. According to the Kansas Reflector, Eric Meyer, owner/publisher of the Marion County Record, said police and sheriff’s deputies took everything. As a result, he is uncertain if the staff could publish a paper.
Newell reportedly told the police chief she did now want any media members in her coffee shop.
The raid followed news stories about Kari Newell, the proprietor of Chef’s Plate in Historic Elgin Hotel and its coffee across the street, Kari’s Kitchen. Apparently, a confidential source contacted the Marion County Record and provided evidence that Newell was convicted of drunken driving. She continued to drive without a license. Meyer noted the paper verified the information.
Nonetheless, Meyer did not publish the story because he thought the source had relied on information from Newell’s husband, who had filed for divorce. Furthermore, he worried he was being set up. However, he did alert the police.
The restaurateur requested Marion police chief Gideon Cody to remove Meyer and reporter Phyllis Zorn from her coffee shop, where U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kansas) was expected shortly. Before Cody escorted the reporter and publisher from the building, they told Newell, “The congressman’s staff had specifically asked the media to attend, to which she replied: “I don’t care. I will not have media in my establishment.”
Meeting With Congressman LaTurner
Shortly after Representative LaTurner arrived, one of his staffers told Meyer she would “bring somebody over to chat with you. I’m kind of getting filled in on what’s been happening.” Then the congressman’s district director Jake Canard came to speak with Meyer and his reporter.
According to the Marion County Record, he apologized for the situation, saying they were unaware the coffee shop was a private business adding, “we obviously wanted the press to be here.”
After again reassuring Meyer that the congressman wanted to have press members at the coffee shop meeting, he offered to schedule another meeting, which happened at the newspaper’s office later that day.
Rep. LaTurner told the Marion County Record that he did not think people were interested in the same things he discussed. He explained his theory: “There’s a thing called Potomac Fever, and it is a real thing, and it’s highly contagious. People become insulated in this D.C. bubble, and what they’re talking about on a daily basis is not what average people across the state are talking about.” For example, he added, the average Marion County citizen was more interested in discussing housing and farming legislation.
Details Surrounding the Questionable Raid
The unprecedented raid happened on August 4, 2023. Local police and sheriff’s deputies seized computers, cell phones, and reporting materials from the Marion County Record office, the newspaper’s reporters, and the publisher’s home.
The warrant alleged the newspaper had committed identity theft and unlawfully used its computer.
Kansas Reflector wrote: “The entire five-officer police force and two sheriff’s deputies took everything” Meyer’s paper had during the raid.
Meyer told Kansas Reflector’s reporter the “police were motivated by a confidential source who leaked sensitive documents to the newspaper.” Furthermore, the message was clear: “Mind your own business, or we’re going to step on you.”
Meyer also said that during the 20 years that he worked at the Milwaukee Journal or his 26 years of teaching journalism at the University of Illinois, he had never heard of police raids on a newspaper office. He added that the questionable search and seizure of his materials and devices will have a chilling effect on us even tackling issues.” Likewise, it could cause people to bypass giving them information for news reports.
According to the Kansas Reflector, the search warrant that Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar signed violates federal law. This law protects the actions used against Meyer and his paper. They cannot search and seize materials from journalists. Instead, the statute requires law enforcement to subpoena materials. Judge Viar has yet to respond to questions about her actions or defend authorizing a potentially illegal raid.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Unprecedented: Fascism in Kansas
Kansas Reflector: Police stage ‘chilling’ raid on Marion County newspaper, seizing computers, records and cellphones; By Sherman, Sam Bailey, Rachel Mipro, and Tim Carpenter
Courthouse News Service: Police raid Kansas newspaper offices, seize computers, phones; By Andrew J. Nelson
Marion County Record: Media ejected at open forum; By Eric Meyer and Phyllis Zorn
Featured and Top Image by Kayla Velasquez Courtesy of Unsplash
First Inset Image by House Creative Committee Courtesy of Wikimedia – Public Domain License
Second Inset Image by Lora Ohanessian Courtesy of Unsplash