After nearly a week of criticism, the Kansas prosecutor behind a controversial police raid on a newspaper office has agreed to withdraw the search warrant and return items taken from the paper. The reversal came after days of outraged reactions from press advocacy organizations, which called the police seizure Friday a violation of state and federal laws. Marion County Record attorney Bernard Rhodes said County Attorney Joel Ensey withdrew the warrant and would return computers, cellphones and records taken by Marion police and sheriff’s deputies from the newspaper headquarters and the home of Eric Meyer, its publisher and editor, the Washington Post reports. A day after the raid, Meyer’s 98-year-old mother, Joan, collapsed and died. The newspaper attributed her death to stress caused by the search of the home she shared with her son.
Rhodes suggested that this is unlikely to be the end of the incident. He urged state officials to investigate how the raid came about, including the role of Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody, who led the search. The Record had been investigating Cody’s departure from the Kansas City, Mo., police force this yea. He threatened to sue the paper if it published allegations of misconduct. The raid of the small weekly newspaper apparently was prompted by a dispute involving a local restaurant owner in Marion, a town of about 1,900 residents. Kari Newell claimed that the paper’s reporters had illegally stolen her identity to access a government database that contained records of her arrest for drunken driving in 2008. The newspaper denied it had done so, but the allegation led officials to seek a search warrant from a judge to search the newspaper and the Meyer home. “I have come to the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists to establish a legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized,” Ensey said. “The Record never should have been subject to this chilling search in the first place,” said Seth Stern of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.