Marion County Police Raid Settlement: Former Reporter Receives $235,000

  • Dr. Meagan Lowe Jr.
  • July 10, 2024 10:04am
  • 350

Deb Gruver, a former reporter for the Marion County Record, has settled part of her federal lawsuit over a controversial police raid on the newspaper. The settlement, which removes the former police chief from the case, raises concerns about press freedom violations.

The Marion County Police raid on the Marion County Record newspaper in 2023 sparked national outrage and raised serious questions about press freedom violations. Now, a former reporter for the newspaper, Deb Gruver, has accepted a $235,000 settlement to resolve part of her federal lawsuit over the incident.

Gruver's lawsuit alleged that former Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody reinjured her previously injured hand when he grabbed her personal phone during the raid. The settlement removes Cody from the lawsuit, but the Marion County sheriff and the county's prosecutor, who were also sued by Gruver, remain defendants.

Marion County Police Raid Settlement: Former Reporter Receives $235,000

Marion County Police Raid Settlement: Former Reporter Receives $235,000

The raid was prompted by an anonymous source who provided the newspaper with information about a restaurant owner seeking a liquor license. The source alleged that the owner, Kari Newell, had been convicted of drunk driving and was driving without a valid license, and that law enforcement was ignoring her repeated violations.

After the newspaper decided not to publish the story, Gruver and publisher Eric Meyer contacted Cody and Marion County Sheriff Jeff Soyez about the information. Law enforcement launched an investigation and obtained a search warrant for evidence of identity theft and criminal use of a computer.

Marion County Police Raid Settlement: Former Reporter Receives $235,000

Marion County Police Raid Settlement: Former Reporter Receives $235,000

The warrant authorized the seizure of computers, cellphones, and reporting materials related to identity theft and unlawful acts concerning computers. It also allowed law enforcement to search for devices used to access the Kansas Department of Revenue's records website.

However, the Privacy Protection Act generally prohibits law enforcement from searching journalists and newsrooms without issuing subpoenas. The police department argued that the law did not apply in this case because the newspaper was suspected of criminal wrongdoing.

Marion County Police Raid Settlement: Former Reporter Receives $235,000

Marion County Police Raid Settlement: Former Reporter Receives $235,000

Cody claimed to have evidence that the newspaper, Gruver, and a then-city council member had committed identity theft or other computer crimes by obtaining information about Newell. However, the three denied any wrongdoing, and no charges were ever filed.

Gruver's lawsuit alleges that Cody seized her personal phone and searched her desk, even though she was not involved in obtaining the driving record. She was investigating Cody's past at the time.

The search also included the seizure of two computers and an Alexa smart speaker used by Meyer's 98-year-old mother and newspaper co-owner. The woman collapsed and died in her home the day after the raid, despite being in good health for her age.

The raid sparked national outrage, and Cody resigned as police chief less than two months later. The settlement with Gruver brings some closure to the case, but questions about the legality of the raid and the potential for further legal challenges remain.

The Marion County Record and publisher Eric Meyer have also filed federal lawsuits alleging that the raid caused the death of Meyer's mother and was motivated by an investigation into Cody's background. These cases are ongoing, and the outcome will be closely watched by those concerned about press freedom and the rights of journalists.

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