$235,000 Settlement Is Reached After Police Raid a Kansas Newspaper


Almost one year after the authorities raided The Marion County Record, a Kansas weekly newspaper, a former reporter has reached a $235,000 settlement as part of a lawsuit she filed over the search, which set off a national discussion about press freedoms.

The settlement, dated June 25, brought an end to a lawsuit filed by the former reporter, Deb Gruver, against Gideon Cody, who resigned as the Marion city police chief in October in the face of mounting pressure.

Ms. Gruver’s lawsuit claimed that Mr. Cody had caused injury to her hand while forcibly obtaining her personal cellphone during the raid. Body-camera footage corroborated Ms. Gruver’s account, according to Eric Meyer, the newspaper’s publisher.

Mr. Meyer said on Saturday that body-camera audio recorded Mr. Cody “saying that it just made his day.”

Ms. Gruver, who left the newspaper last fall, said in a letter to the editor that she “no longer wanted to work in a town where the majority of ‘leaders’ clearly don’t respect the Fourth Estate or the U.S. Constitution,” The Record reported.

On Aug. 11, 2023, local police and county sheriff’s deputies raided the office of The Record and the homes of a councilwoman and Mr. Meyer. The raid at the newsroom sparked outrage and a nationwide debate over First Amendment rights.

A search warrant was issued about one hour before the raid in which officers searched the newsroom and opened drawers and removed computers, cellphones and other materials from The Record’s office. Seven law enforcement officials spent more than two hours in Mr. Meyer’s residence, where his mother was at the time, he said.

The authorities said the search was part of an investigation into how a document, which contained information about a local restaurant owner’s steps to restore her driver’s license, had been obtained by the newspaper. The authorities said that the acquisition may have constituted identity theft and other crimes.

No article containing the government record had been published, and The Record said that it had obtained the document from a confidential source.

Less than a week after the raid, Marion County’s top prosecutor, Joel Ensey, ordered officials to return the seized devices because there was insufficient evidence to justify the searches.

Two days after the searches, Joan Meyer, the 98-year-old mother of the publisher and the co-owner of the paper, died, in part because of the distress caused by the raid on her home, Mr. Meyer said.

The raid also came days after The Record had questioned Mr. Cody about his departure from the Kansas City Police Department, following accusations that he had made sexist and insulting comments.

Ms. Gruver “was the reporter who had obtained initial information on the police chief that we did not publish at the time,” Mr. Meyer said. “The material for that was in her desk, and they searched her desk during the raid.”

Another part of her lawsuit against the county sheriff, Jeff Soyez, and Mr. Ensey remains pending. Lawsuits filed by four other employees of the newspaper also remain pending.

The city’s insurance carrier will pay the settlement in Ms. Gruver’s case. City officials and Mr. Cody could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.

One of the lawsuits, filed by Mr. Meyer, is on behalf of the newspaper’s parent company and the estate of Ms. Meyer. The lawsuits accuse local officials of trying to silence the paper and say that the raids contributed to Ms. Meyer’s death.

“One of the things that we’ve seen out of this is that the people who have responded to us have come from across the political spectrum,” Mr. Meyer said. “There aren’t too many things in this world right now that bring Democrats and Republicans together.”

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