Chief Behind Controversial Kansas Newspaper Raid Suspended

The police chief at the center of a small-town scandal has been placed on suspension nearly two months after the controversial raid of a newspaper and the homes of two citizens.

In August, authorities in Marion County, Kansas, conducted searches of the local newspaper, the home of its publisher, and the home of a Marion city council member. At the time, Police Chief Gideon Cody indicated that allegations of improperly obtaining the driving record of a local business owner was behind the decision to pursue a search warrant.

Newspaper staff denied breaking the law to access the information about Kari Newell, who claimed that the Marion County Recorder went on to share reports of her drunk-driving arrest with Councilwoman Ruth Herbel.

Just days after the raids, Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey provided an update signaling that the search warrant was not justified by the evidence authorities provided.

“Insufficient evidence exists to establish a legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized,” he said at the time, adding: “As a result, I have submitted a proposed order asking the court to release the evidence seized. I have asked local law enforcement to return the material seized to the owners of the property.”

Not only did the searches trigger concerns about First Amendment infringements, but Eric Meyer believes his elderly mother died due in part to the stress caused by the police raid.

Joan Meyer, 98, shared a home with her son and video of the search showed her becoming upset during a confrontation with police.

“Don’t touch any of that stuff!” she shouted at one point during the raid. “This is my house!”

She died the following day.

Debbie Gruver, the reporter behind the story in question, is now suing Cody for violating her constitutional rights.

According to the suit: “Such acts were done by Chief Cody in retaliation for Ms. Gruver exercising her protected rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as a reporter for the Record, which protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”

Since then, Marion Mayor Dave Mayfield confirmed that the chief has been off the job since Thursday, though there was no indication whether he was suspended with or without pay.

“I did indeed suspend chief Cody and I won’t discuss any details regarding his suspension as it is a personnel matter,” the mayor stated.