By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Kansas police chief claims secret information to justify newspaper raid

On Sunday, The New York Times and The Washington Post finally picked up on the police raid targeting the office of the Marion County Record as well as the publisher’s and vice mayor’s home. The action against the Kansas newspaper — illegal on its face under federal law since officials had not obtained a subpoena — has sparked a growing outcry, and may have led to the death of the paper’s 98-year-old co-owner, Joan Meyer.

The Post story, by Sofia Andrade and Paul Farhi, led with Meyer’s death. The Times story, by Stephen Lee Myers and Benjamin Mullin, weirdly saved that detail for the kicker. As I’ve written previously, Joan Meyer was at home Friday when police burst in and, according to her son, editor Eric Meyer, collapsed and died the following day after a sleepless, stress-filled night.

The Times quotes Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody as defending the raid, saying, “I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated.” The story adds that Cody declined to provide any additional information.

This is, of course, the classic defense by small-minded people with a little bit of power: If you knew what I know, then you’d know what I know. It’s ridiculous, and of course there’s nothing to stop Cody from sharing enough information to explain why he thought it necessary to seize computers, cellphones and financial records without even bothering to seek a subpoena, as required under the federal Privacy Protection Act.

The investigation was supposedly related to documents the Record had obtained about the drunken driving arrest of a local caterer, but that seems pretty unlikely. More to the point is that, according to Eric Meyer, the paper was looking into sexual misconduct allegations involving Chief Cody at his previous position in Kansas City, Missouri, from which he retired.

In other developments:

• The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has published an open letter to Chief Cody signed by 34 media and press freedom groups to “condemn” the raid, stating in part:

Based on public reporting, the search warrant that has been published online, and your public statements to the press, there appears to be no justification for the breadth and intrusiveness of the search — particularly when other investigative steps may have been available — and we are concerned that it may have violated federal law strictly limiting federal, state, and local law enforcements ability to conduct newsroom searches. We urged you to immediately return the seized material to the Record, to purge any records that may already have been accessed, and to initiate a full independent and transparent review of your department’s actions.

Among the signatories: The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe.

• Eric Meyer plans to file a federal lawsuit over the raid, according to Sara Fischer and Rebecca Falconer of Axios.


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  1. Lex Alexander

    I am so tired of lazy journalists saying that raids like this “raise questions about the First Amendment” and similar tripe. No, they don’t. What they raise questions about is fascism, and at least in this case, the answers are abundantly clear.

    Another, less publicized example: A couple of weeks ago here in Greensboro, N.C., a judge seized the notes of a newspaper reporter who was in the courtroom. The seizure took place without the judge’s first having held a hearing as required by state law. The reporter was entitled to have counsel present at the hearing. She asked the judge for the chance to confer with counsel before the notes were seized; the judge refused. The judge also imposed a gag order. Incredibly, the chief resident district court judge upheld these illegal decisions.

  2. go get them!!!

  3. NahantJim Walsh

    In small towns law enforcement officials can see themselves as far more powerful and unrestrained than those in bigger jurisdictions.

    As I written many times…to criticize the behavior of one cop is not an attack on all cops. They are there to protect us. But, defending indefensible behavior by a cop or a chief does nothing to maintain or increase respect for law enforcement.

  4. Mary E. Peterson

    Mary E. Peterson
    My heart breaks for her. Have they no heart. I am appalled at their behavior. SHAME SHAME SHAME ON THEM. 1) She was 98 yrs old for God sakes 2) they broke into her house illegally without a subpoena 3) She was 98 yrs old. Shame shame. I would just like to ask each and every one of those cops this 1 question “who on earth raised you”? Their families must be so disappointed. Joanne Meyers prematurely left this world at 98 years old, but she went out fighting. She scared ME. They can’t run far enough, hide deep enough or stay down long enough. Shes IS coming for them. With a vengeance. Keep 1 eye open.

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