State investigators will probe police raid of Kansas newspaper office

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has begun a felony probe of the police raid of a newspaper workplace final week that has drawn outrage from journalists nationwide who see it as a violation of the First Modification.

It’s not clear whether or not the state investigation is targeted on the native officers who performed the search on the Marion County File or on the reporters and editors for the small weekly paper. The company mentioned it was requested by Marion police and the native county legal professional to affix an investigation into allegations of “illegal access and dissemination of confidential criminal justice information,” based on the Kansas Metropolis Star.

Officers within the Kansas city searched the newspaper’s workplaces and the house of an area councilwoman on Friday, seizing computer systems, cellphones and information. The 98-year-old co-owner of the newspaper, Joan Meyer, died a day after her home was additionally searched; the File attributed her dying to the stress of the occasion.

After a police raid on a Kansas newspaper, questions mount

The search by Marion police and sheriff’s deputies — which File editor Eric Meyer decried as “Gestapo tactics” — has elicited sweeping condemnation from press-freedom advocates, together with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which urged police to return seized materials in a letter signed by The Washington Submit and greater than 30 information organizations. Advocates have cited state and federal legal guidelines defending journalists, in addition to the Fourth Modification’s prohibition on unlawful searches and seizures by authorities officers. The Society of Skilled Journalists supplied Monday to assist cowl the File’s authorized charges.

The newspaper’s legal professional protested the search in a letter on Sunday to the city’s police chief, Gideon Cody, saying the seized materials was protected underneath a state protect regulation, and later forwarded the letter to the KBI.

A KBI spokesperson instructed the Star it was the “lead law enforcement agency” trying into the matter however supplied no additional particulars about what prompted the KBI to turn into concerned or the thrust of its investigation.

Criticism of the police raid has targeted consideration on Cody, who joined the small-town police drive in April after wrapping up a 24-year profession with the Kansas Metropolis police division.

Eric Meyer mentioned later that the File had been investigating allegations that Cody had been accused of sexual harassment in Kansas Metropolis, however the paper had not but revealed a narrative about it.

Nonetheless, the police raid — led by Cody with 4 different Marion officers and two sheriff’s deputies — seems to have been triggered by an apparently unrelated matter.

The search warrant was issued by an area decide after a Marion restaurant proprietor, Kari Newell, alleged that one of many newspaper’s reporters had used an unlawful pc search to acquire sealed state data about her arrest and quotation for driving underneath the affect in 2008 — a disclosure she alleged was supposed to scuttle her software for a liquor license. Journalists “are not exempt from the laws they blast others for not following,” Newell mentioned in a press release final week.

Meyer denied final week that the paper had obtained the data — which the File additionally had not beforehand revealed — by means of illicit means or shared it with an area council member, as Newell alleged. He mentioned the data got here from a supply who individually leaked the data to the council member, whose residence was additionally raided on Friday as a part of the warrant.

Meyer was unavailable for additional remark Tuesday.

The KBI’s director, Tony Mattivi, appeared to defend the raid in a press release Sunday, saying members of the media aren’t “above the law.” He additionally referred to as freedom of the press “a vanguard of American democracy.”

In an interview with The Submit on Tuesday, the File’s lawyer, Bernard Rhodes, expressed optimism concerning the KBI’s involvement.

“I agree the media is not above the law, but in this country, it’s not illegal to be a reporter,” Rhodes mentioned. “That statement does not concern me one bit because no one broke the law.”

He added, “A confidential source provided a document; we attempted to verify that, which one would hope a reporter would do. They’re attempting to criminalize being a reporter, and that’s not what this country is about.”

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