"Gestapo tactics": Co-owner of Kansas newspaper, 98, dies after "chilling" police raid

"An assault on the very foundation of democracy and the public's right to know," press advocate says

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published August 14, 2023 11:46AM (EDT)

Police cars (Getty Images/frankysze)
Police cars (Getty Images/frankysze)

The co-owner of a small Kansas newspaper, the Marion County Record, died a day after police launched a raid on her home and the newspaper's office. Police on Friday seized a computer and a router used by an Alexa smart speaker from the home of Joan Meyer, 98, Marion Country Record reported. Along with Meyer's home, police raided the paper's office, taking personal cellphones, computers, the newspaper's file server, and other miscellaneous equipment, per CBS News.

Eric Meyer, owner and publisher of the Record, said the police raid — which included Marion's entire five-officer police force as well as two deputies — came after a confidential source leaked sensitive documents to the paper. Recent news stories had circulated about a restaurant owner who had allegedly ousted reporters from a meeting with U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, R-Kan., which followed with subsequent leaks about the owner's lack of a driver's license and drunk driving conviction. "It's going to have a chilling effect on us even tackling issues," Meyer said, along with "a chilling effect on people giving us information." The outlet's "first priority is to be able to publish next week," Meyer added. "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."

Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody on Saturday defended the raid and said that "the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated" once further information comes to light. The Kansas Reflector reported that the search warrant, which was inked by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, seems to be in violation of federal law that upholds protections for journalists from having their materials searched and seized. "An attack on a newspaper office through an illegal search is not just an infringement on the rights of journalists but an assault on the very foundation of democracy and the public's right to know," said Emily Bradbury, executive director of the Kansas Press Association.