The Marion, Ks., police department is facing criticism after it raided the offices of a local newspaper and the home of its publisher and owner, actions that press freedom watchdogs call as a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution’s protection of a free press. The Marion County Record said police raided the newspaper’s office on Friday, seizing the newspaper’s computers, phones and file server and the personal cellphones of staff, based on a search warrant, reports the Associated Press.. A reporter said a finger was injured when Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody wrested her cellphone out of her hand. Police simultaneously raided the home of Eric Meyer, the newspaper’s publisher and co-owner, seizing computers, his cellphone and the home’s internet router. Meyer’s 98-year-old mother — Record co-owner Joan Meyer who lived with her son — collapsed and died Saturday, Meyer said, blaming her death on the stress of the raid.
Meyer believes the raid was prompted by the newspaper's story about a local restaurant owner, Kari Newell. Newell this month had police remove Meyer and a reporter from her restaurant as they covered a public reception for U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, a Republican. The police chief and other officials attended and the Marion Police Department highlighted the event on its Facebook page. The next week at a city council meeting, Newell accused the newspaper of using illegal means to get information on a drunken driving conviction against her. The newspaper did not run a story on Newell’s DUI. A search warrant signed by a judge lists Newell as the victim of alleged crimes by the newspaper. Sharon Brett of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas called the raid “quite an alarming abuse of authority from the local police department."