September 23, 2023

By Whitney Wild, Sarah Moon and Holly Yan | CNN

After days of nationwide controversy over the raid of a small city’s newspaper workplace and the writer’s residence, the gadgets seized will likely be returned, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation introduced Wednesday.

An legal professional for the Marion County File, Bernie Rhodes, informed CNN the native prosecutor has agreed to withdraw a search warrant executed on the newspaper Friday and can return all seized gadgets, answering calls for of press freedom advocates who sharply condemned the police motion.

The paper’s co-owner and writer, Eric Meyer, has mentioned he believes Friday’s raid in Marion – about 60 miles north of Wichita – was prompted by a narrative revealed Wednesday a couple of native enterprise proprietor, Kari Newell. However authorities mentioned they have been investigating what they known as “identification theft” in a search warrant.

Computer systems, cell telephones and different supplies have been seized throughout the raid on the Marion County File, Meyer confirmed to CNN.

Marion County prosecutor Joel Ensey launched an announcement explaining why he has requested for the seized gadgets to be returned.

“On Monday, August 14, 2023, I reviewed intimately the warrant functions made Friday, August 11, 2023 to go looking numerous areas in Marion County together with the workplace of the Marion County File,” Ensey mentioned.

“The affidavits, which I’m asking the courtroom to launch, established possible trigger to imagine that an worker of the newspaper might have dedicated … Illegal Acts Regarding Computer systems. Upon additional assessment nonetheless, I’ve come to the conclusion that inadequate proof exists to determine a legally enough nexus between this alleged crime and the locations searched and the gadgets seized,” the prosecutor mentioned.

“In consequence, I’ve submitted a proposed order asking the courtroom to launch the proof seized. I’ve requested native legislation enforcement to return the fabric seized to the homeowners of the property.”

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation plans to proceed its investigation “independently,” it mentioned within the assertion.

“We’ll work with the Marion County File, or their consultant, to coordinate the immediate return of all seized gadgets,” KBI spokesperson Melissa Underwood wrote. “As soon as our investigation concludes we are going to current findings to the Marion County Lawyer for assessment.”

Meyer’s mom – Marion County File co-owner Joan Meyer – died Saturday, the day after police raided the house she shared together with her son. Eric Meyer mentioned he believes stress from the raid contributed to his mom’s dying.

The story behind the story

Earlier this month, Meyer mentioned he was at Kari’s Kitchen – a espresso store operated by Newell – for a public assembly occasion with US Rep. Jake LaTurner, a Republican who represents the world.

Although it was a public meet-and-greet occasion, Meyer mentioned he and his reporter, Phyllis Zorn, have been requested to depart.

“I used to be standing in line ready to get a drink on the espresso store the place we have been and the police chief got here as much as us and mentioned you’ve been requested to depart by the espresso store proprietor,” Meyer mentioned. “She mentioned we don’t need the media in right here, in order that they threw us out.”

CNN has reached out to LaTurner’s workplace concerning the state of affairs.

Meyer mentioned Zorn then acquired a tip about Newell allegedly driving and not using a legitimate driver’s license after a visitors offense in 2008.

Newell confirmed to CNN that she had requested Meyer and his reporter to depart the occasion as a result of she believes the newspaper “has a long-standing repute for twisting and contorting feedback inside our group.”

“Once they got here into the institution, I quietly and politely requested them to exit,” Newell mentioned. “I didn’t really feel that their constituents wanted to be uncovered to any threat of being misquoted.”

Newell mentioned the Marion County File unlawfully used her credentials to get data that was solely out there to legislation enforcement, personal investigators and insurance coverage companies. “Not solely did they’ve data that was unlawful for them to acquire within the method during which they did, however they despatched it out as effectively,” she added.

The Marion County File revealed the article “strictly out of malice and retribution for me asking him to exit my institution,” she mentioned.

Newell mentioned she was out of state when she discovered of Friday’s raid and informed CNN she was “flabbergasted” and “didn’t know that was coming.”

‘Not in America’

Meyer mentioned he drove right down to the workplace the place legislation enforcement officers seized a file server, a backup drive for a file server, Meyer’s laptop and the computer systems of two different reporters.

“I’ve by no means seen something like this, not in America,” Meyer mentioned. “This was an atomic flyswatter. They wished to swat us, they usually tried to take action.”

Two reporters – Zorn and Deb Gruver – whose computer systems have been seized additionally had their telephones taken away, in keeping with Meyer.

“So far as I can see, everything of legislation enforcement in Marion County was concerned on this,” Meyer mentioned.