Tuesday, July 09, 2024

One lawsuit over the Marion County newspaper raid settled for $235,000, but more claims are pending

Marion County Record raid, Gruver's desk at bottom right
(Screen capture of surveillance video via Kansas Reflector)
It has been almost a year since the Marion County Record was raided by police supposedly investigating charges of identity theft and illegal use of a computer by the Kansas weekly newspaper. In the process of confiscating newsroom property, the city's chief of police, Gideon Cody, injured Record reporter Deb Gruver's hand while "forcibly obtaining her personal cellphone," reports Emmett Lindner of The New York Times. "Gruver 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."

Gruver, who resigned from the paper after the raid, "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.

Another lawsuit, filed by the Record's publisher, Eric Meyer, alleges that the raid, which included "seven law enforcement officials spending more than two hours in Meyer’s residence, where his mother was at the time" contributed to her death the next day, Linder reports. Four other Record employees also have suits pending.

While Gruver's settlement ends one chapter of the raid's fallout, the entire investigation and the later reversal of the authorized searches that allowed it are still more broadly worrisome, particularly for smaller newspapers that investigate local authorities. Linder explains, "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. . . .The raid also came after The Record had questioned Cody about his departure from the Kansas City Police Department, following accusations that he had made sexist and insulting comments."

The raid didn't just have negative outcomes; there was also a silver lining. Meyer told Linder, "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. There aren’t too many things in this world right now that bring Democrats and Republicans together.”

No comments: