Police chief in Kansas newspaper raid claims reporter impersonated someone else to obtain driving records of business owner

19:50 20.08.2023

In a shocking turn of events, the police chief of Marion, Kansas, has accused a reporter from the Marion County Record of violating the law by lying or impersonating someone else. The chief, Gideon Cody, alleged that the reporter, Phyllis Zorn, lied or misrepresented herself when accessing confidential documents about local business owner Kari Newell. This accusation has sparked a fierce debate about press freedoms and privacy rights.

The raid on the Marion County Record, which took place on August 11, has drawn national attention due to its implications for freedom of speech. During the raid, the police confiscated computers, cellphones, and other equipment belonging to the newspaper and its staff. This hindered the employees from doing their job, forcing them to work overnight to produce the next day's paper. The front-page headline of the following day's edition defiantly read, "SEIZED... but not silenced."

The controversy arose when it was discovered that Zorn had accessed a public website to gather information about Kari Newell. Zorn had used Newell's name in the search, and the police believed this constituted identity theft. However, the newspaper argued that its methods were legal and that no laws were broken. They claimed that Zorn had obtained the necessary information from a source who had provided it unsolicited.

The police chief, Gideon Cody, insisted that Zorn's actions were illegal and that she had either impersonated Newell or lied about her intentions when seeking the driving records. Cody argued that downloading the documents involved identity theft or deception. However, the Marion County Record and its attorney, Bernie Rhodes, maintained that Zorn's actions were legal under both state and federal laws.

The raid has caused an uproar and has led to a broader investigation into the newspaper's conduct. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is now leading the inquiry, with the state attorney general emphasizing that their focus is on the newspaper's actions rather than the police's conduct. Legal experts have raised concerns that the raid may have violated federal privacy laws that protect journalists from having their newsrooms searched. There are also concerns about potential violations of Kansas laws that protect reporters from being forced to disclose their sources or unpublished material.

Despite the controversy, the Marion County Record has received overwhelming support from other news organizations and media groups. The raid has actually led to an increase in subscriptions, with the newspaper gaining at least 4,000 new subscribers. The outpouring of support has provided some solace to the newspaper's editor and publisher, Eric Meyer, who tragically lost his 98-year-old mother, Joan Meyer, just a day after the raid. The funeral services for Joan Meyer were held on Saturday.

In a surprising twist, all of the items confiscated during the raid were returned to the newspaper on Wednesday after Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey concluded that there was insufficient evidence to justify the raid. Ensey submitted a proposed order to the court, requesting the release of the seized evidence. He also instructed local law enforcement to return the material to the owners.

The Marion County Record and its staff remain defiant in the face of these allegations. Editor and Publisher Eric Meyer declared, "You cannot let bullies win. We have a staff that's very experienced, including myself, and we're not going to take crap." The newspaper will continue to fight for its right to freedom of the press and to report on matters of public interest.

/ Sunday, August 20, 2023, 7:50 PM /

themes:  Kansas

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