Braxton Citizens' News, Opinion

A very scary situation…

Last week I received an email that I found quite alarming. It came by way of the Charleston Gazette-Mail and talked about police raiding a weekly newspaper office in Kansas. The email contained an editorial published in the Kansas City Star. Here are some excerpts from that writing…

Marion, Kansas, city police and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office did something last week that no government agency in America has any right to do. They shut down a newspaper.

Those agencies raided the offices of the Marion County Record and the home of its owners, Eric Meyer and his mother, Joan. Police seized company-owned and personal computers and cellphones, and photographed personal documents on tables in the Meyer home…

Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody (more about him later) reinjured a dislocated finger of Record reporter Deb Gruver when he personally snatched her cellphone from her hand during the raid.

The ransacking and seizures, which include the Record’s file server, directly threaten the ability of the Record to publish.

One probably couldn’t say it any better than the 98-year-old Joan Meyer, a newspaperwoman since 1953: “These are Hitler tactics, and something has to be done.”

It turned out to be one of the last things she ever said. Meyer complained of feeling upset and stressed by the invasion of her home when she spoke to reporters on Friday. Late Saturday, she collapsed at home and passed away.

According to a search warrant signed by Marion County Magistrate Laura Viar, the raid is related to an ongoing dispute between the paper and local restaurateur Kari Newell…

From the warrant, the crux of the police investigation seems to be whether the paper and its reporters committed identity theft and/or unlawful acts concerning computers in confirming Newell’s driving records. An affidavit justifying the warrant is being withheld by County Attorney Joel Ensey, whose brother owns the hotel where Newell has her restaurant.

The ordinary and proper way to pursue such a complaint would have been to subpoena the paper’s communications and records regarding Newell and let the courts decide what, if anything, the Record had to turn over.

According to Eric Meyer, the Record has been actively investigating the circumstances surrounding Cody’s departure from the KCMO department. Last week’s raid gives Cody and his subordinates access to reporters’ notes and material from confidential sources who were interviewed as part of the newspaper’s investigation.

There’s no way to put this toothpaste back in the tube, but there are several actions that need to be taken without delay:

Magistrate Viar, or the presiding district judge, should immediately revoke the overly broad search warrant she signed and declare that any evidence seized under it be inadmissible in court.

Viar or the district judge should order the immediate return of all equipment and materials seized.

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach should conduct a full investigation of government overreach at home. That must include public disclosure of the circumstances of the raid and motivations behind it. This is truly scary. If we lose freedom of the press, we have NO democracy!