In a tragic incident, Joan Meyer, the 98-year-old co-owner of the Marion County Record, a weekly newspaper in Marion, Kansas, has passed away following an unprecedented police raid on her home and the newspaper office on Friday.
During the raid, conducted by the city of Marion’s small police force and two sheriff’s deputies, the office of the Marion County Record and the home of owner and publisher Eric Meyer were targeted. The shocking operation resulted in the unfortunate death of Joan Meyer, Eric’s mother and co-owner of the paper. This incident has been labeled by Meyer as a direct assault on freedom of the press.
The raid occurred following a heated dispute between the Marion County Record and a local restaurant owner, Kari Newell. The newspaper had reportedly obtained confidential documents that could have resulted in the revocation of Newell’s liquor license. These documents contained evidence of drunk driving convictions and operating a vehicle without a license.
While the newspaper opted not to publish the story, it did inform the police about the documents, suspecting that they might have been leaked by someone associated with Newell’s ex-husband.
In response, Newell publicly accused the newspaper of unlawfully obtaining and spreading the information. The newspaper released an article to clarify its stance, but this was followed by the raid on Friday.
The search warrant against the Marion Record authorized the seizure of a broad range of items, including computer hardware and software, digital communications, cellular networks, servers, hard drives, utility records, and documents related to Newell. The warrant specifically targeted computers that could potentially be linked to the alleged “identity theft of Kari Newell.”
During the raid, law enforcement not only confiscated computers and internet routers from the Meyers’ residence but also scrutinized Eric Meyer’s personal bank and investment records. At the time, Joan Meyer, who was awaiting a Meals on Wheels delivery, reportedly observed the search with tears in her eyes. This distressing incident left her unable to eat or sleep, which ultimately contributed to her passing, as reported by the newspaper.
Tragically, aside from Joan Meyer’s demise, one of the newspaper’s reporters sustained injuries when an officer forcefully took her cell phone from her hand.
Despite the widespread outcry and the devastating outcome, the Marion Kansas Police Department has stood by their actions, asserting that federal protections did not cover the journalists due to suspicions of criminal activity.
In a statement provided to the New York Post, the department underscored its committment to upholding justice, asserting, “The victim [Newell] asks that we do all the law allows to ensure justice is served. The Marion Kansas Police Department will [do] nothing less.”
Eric Meyer, aged 69 and the owner and publisher of the Record is furious and has vowed to pursue legal action against both the city of Marion and the individuals involved in the raid. Legal professionals consulted by the newspaper allegedly concur that the city’s actions contravened federal statutes and infringed upon the team’s Constitutional rights.
From the Marion Record (excerpt):
Legal experts contacted by the Record termed the raid unheard of in America and reminiscent of what occurs in totalitarian regimes and the Third World.
The Record is expected to file a federal suit against the City of Marion and those involved in the search, which legal experts contacted were unanimous in saying violated multiple state and federal laws, including the U.S. Constitution, and multiple court rulings.
“Our first priority is to be able to publish next week,” Eric Meyer said, “but we also want to make sure no other news organization is ever exposed to the Gestapo tactics we witnessed today. We will be seeking the maximum sanctions possible under law.”
A two-page warrant signed by Magistrate Laura Viar was given to the Record at the time of the search.
Marion vice mayor Ruth Herbel’s home also was raided at the same time.
The warrants alleged there was probable cause to believe that identity theft and unlawful computer acts had been committed involving Marion business owner Kari Newell.
A Record reporter later requested a copy of the probable cause affidavit necessary for issuance of the search warrant
District court, where such items are supposed to be filed, issued a signed statement saying no affidavit was on file.
County attorney Joel Ensey, whose brother owns the hotel where Newell operates her restaurant, was asked for it but said he would not release it because it was “not a public document.”
Watch the video report from ABC News: