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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Amelia Neath

Marion County police chief resigns over controversial raid on newspaper offices

Marion County Record/AP

A Kansas police chief has resigned after he called a widely criticised police raid on a local newspaper back in August.

The Marion Kansas police chief Gideon Cody resigned on Monday, the city’s mayor David Mayfield confirmed to CNN.

His resignation comes after he was suspended last week amid an investigation into the raid.

The search took place on 11 August, when five policemen raided local newspaper Marion County Record’s office and the home addresses of the paper’s publisher and the vice mayor of Marion.

"I didn’t see it coming," Meyer said. "I thought the suspension would hold for a while but it didn’t seem to."

They seized reporters’ mobile phones and computers, amongst various other items.

"I didn’t see it coming," The paper’s publisher, Eric Meyer said to local outlet KSHB. "I thought the suspension would hold for a while but it didn’t seem to."

Mr Meyer said he believed the raid was motivated by a story they published on a local restaurant owner, Kari Newell, who was alleged to have been illegally driving for more than a decade, according to the Marion County Record.

However, authorities stated in the search warrant that they were investigating an “identity theft” when they raided the premises.

Mr Cody wrote in an affidavit for the warrant request that “downloading the document involved either impersonating the victim or lying about the reasons why the record was being sought.”

Mr Cody said in an affidavit obtained by CNN that they chose to operate the raids because they had reason to believe that a reporter got hold of the restaurant owner’s driving records unlawfully before a story went live about her.

Less than a week after the raids were initiated, Marion County’s top prosecutor Joel Ensey withdrew the search warrants and told the authorities to return all the seized items due to “insufficient evidence exists to establish a legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized.”

The driver record database turns out to be open to the public and any driving licence holder in Kansas can be found on there.

The newspaper’s co-publisher, Joan Meyer, 98, died one day after the raids.

Gideon Cody resigned on Monday after huge criticism from the community and press freedom associations
— (Marion County Police Department)

While Mr Meyer was saddened by the fact that is how he spent his last days with her, he said, "I think she’d take some pride in the fact that she managed to accomplish something by getting people to pay attention to this story."

The incident caught the attention of press freedom organisations, such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, who said in a letter to Mr Cody, "There appears to be no justification for the breadth and intrusiveness of the search ... and we are concerned that it may have violated federal law."

A reporter from the Marion County Record Debbie Gruver has filed a federal lawsuit against Mr Cody, stating that he violated her constitutional rights by obtaining an “unreasonable and unlawful” search warrant to seize her items, the lawsuit states.

The complaint also goes on to allege that Mr Cody was directly targeting Ms Gruver as she had been working on an investigation into misconduct allegations surrounding the chief while he was still in his position, although the paper did not publish anything on the topic at that time.

She claims that the seizing of her personal mobile phone did not fall under the necessary items that should have been taken in the riad.

On top of this, Judge Laura Viar, who authorised the search warrants to go ahead, is also facing a complaint and is being asked by a judicial body to respond.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is now leading an inquiry into the raids.

A new Marion police chief, Officer Zach Hudlin, has now been appointed. Mr Hudlin was also present during the raid and seized various items such as a reporter’s mobile phone, according to the search warrant.

According to the Marion County Record, the local police chiefs have been providing weekly reports to them for the past 50 years. Mr Hudlin promised the paper he would resume this after Mr Cody allegedly stopped the tradition four months ago.

Mr Cody said in a statement, "I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated."

Mr Meyer said this incident is a step forward in holding people accountable for their wrongdoings.

"The wagons seem to be circling," Meyer said. "We’ll see who, when the music stops, who’s left without a chair."

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