The small town of Marion, Kansas, was thrust into the national spotlight this week following a police raid on its local newspaper’s offices.
Now, the White House has weighed in, saying the raid “raises a lot of concerns” about the freedom of the press, which a spokesperson called a “core value” of democracy.
Meanwhile, the Marion County Record still made it to the presses: It published its weekly Wednesday edition with the bold headline “Seized… but not silenced.”
The Star has also uncovered information about Marion police chief Gideon Cody’s past with the Kansas City Police Department, where he worked for 24 years before moving to Marion.
Here’s the latest on the fallout from Friday’s police raid.
Marion police chief left KCPD following allegations of sexism
Prior to Friday’s raid, the Record had investigated local police chief Gideon Cody, a former Kansas City Police Department property crimes unit captain. Cody left the KCPD to become Marion’s police chief earlier this year — but did so amid a cloud of controversy.
In Kansas City, Cody had faced discipline for allegedly making insulting and sexist comments to a female officer, who recorded a following conversation in which he acknowledged his behavior was unprofessional. She filed a hostile work environment complaint against him in the months before he left Kansas City.
Several KCPD officials described the incidents to The Star under the condition of anonymity in this story, published Wednesday.
White House weighs in
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre expressed the White House’s concerns with last week’s raid in a Wednesday press conference — although she wouldn’t comment on specifics of the ongoing case.
“(Reports of the raid) raise a lot of concerns and a lot of questions for us,” Jean-Pierre said. “The freedom of the press, that is a core value when we think about our democracy…. We’ll continue to reaffirm this fundamental right.”
Seized… but not silenced
The Marion County Record put out its first edition Wednesday since its offices were raided by police last week. The front page blared with a defiant headline: “SEIZED… but not silenced.”
The paper’s main story Wednesday told of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation taking over the case from local police. The state agency said it would “review all prior steps taken” during the probe.
Featured at the bottom of the front page, a second story was about the “global” support for the paper. It has received over 1,000 new digital subscriptions since the raid, and its editor told The Star that phones are ringing all day with words of support from around the country.
Prosecutor orders seized materials to be returned to newspaper office
Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey withdrew the search warrant that led to Friday’s police raid on Wednesday. The warrant listed 15 categories of items police could seize on suspicion of “identity theft” and “unlawful acts concerning computers.”
Ensey said he concluded that “insufficient evidence” existed to establish a “legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized.”
Bernie Rhodes, the Record’s lawyer who also represents The Star, said Wednesday that all the electronics police seized from the newsroom will be returned. But he argued that this is a small remedy to the harm caused by the raid.
“It does nothing about taking care of the damage that has already occurred from the violation of the First Amendment in the first place,” he told The Star.
Judge who signed the warrant has her own DUI history
Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, who signed the warrant authorizing Friday’s raid, did so because of allegations that the newspaper had improperly obtained information about a local restaurant owner’s past DUI conviction.
But Judge Viar has a DUI history of her own. She has been arrested at least twice for driving under the influence in two different Kansas counties, an investigation by the Wichita Eagle reported Wednesday.
During a 2012 incident in Morris County, she allegedly drove off-road with a suspended license and crashed into a school building while under the influence. She was running unopposed for Morris County Attorney at the time — and won.
Viar was not sanctioned by the state’s attorney discipline board.
Read the investigation: Judge who approved raid on Kansas newspaper has history of DUI arrests
The Star’s Glenn E. Rice, Luke Nozicka, Jonathan Shorman and Katie Moore contributed. Chance Swaim of the Wichita Eagle and Michael Wilner of McClatchy’s Washington, D.C., bureau contributed.
Do you have more questions about the Marion, Kansas police raid and fallout? Ask the Service Journalism team at email@example.com.