‘Get out of my house!’ Video shows the 98-year-old mother of a Kansas newspaper publisher being upset in the midst of a raid
Eric Meyer, publisher of The Marion County Record, speaks to one of its reporters in the weekly newspaper’s newsroom, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023, in Marion, Cannes. Mobile phones, some equipment has been returned. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
By John Hanna and Jim Salter (The Associated Press)
Marion, it was. my house!”
Video released by the newspaper Monday shows Joanne Meyer screaming at the six officers inside the Marion, Kansas, home where she was living with her son, Marion County Record editor and publisher Eric Meyer. She is visibly upset as she stands with the aid of a walker and wears a long robe or gown and slippers.
“Get out of my house… I don’t want you in my house!” she said at some point. “Don’t touch any of those things! This is my home!” she said elsewhere.
The raids took place on the newspaper and the homes of the Myers family and a city council member on August 11, after a local restaurant owner accused the newspaper of illegally accessing information about it. Joan Mayer died the next day. Her son said he believes stress contributed to her death.
The prosecutor later said that there was insufficient evidence to justify the raids, and that some of the computers and mobile phones that had been seized had been returned. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the agency that oversees the site said Monday that the initial online search for a state website that the police chief cited to justify the raid was legal.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation continues to examine the newspaper’s actions.
Legal experts believe the police raid on the newspaper violated federal or state privacy law that protects journalists from having to identify sources or turn over unpublished material to law enforcement.
Two state lawmakers, Kansas House Democratic Leader Vic Miller, and Democratic Representative Jason Probst, a former newspaper reporter and editor in Hutchinson, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Marion, said they plan to pursue legislation dealing with search warrants after that. General but they are looking for other ideas as well.
“I don’t want this to fizzle out until we deal with it,” Miller said during a press conference at the State House.
The raid on the record put her and her hometown of about 1,900 residents 150 miles (241 km) southwest of Kansas City in the middle of a debate about press freedoms protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Kansas Bill of Rights. It also exposed divisions in the town over local politics and the paper’s coverage of the community, and put a spotlight on Police Chief Gideon Cody, who led the raids after the paper asked questions about his background.
“As far as Chief Cody goes, he can take his high horse that he brought to this community and get out of town,” Marion resident Darvin Markley said during a city council meeting Monday afternoon. “The man needs to go. He needs to be fired.”
Cody did not attend Monday’s meeting and did not respond to emails and cellphone messages seeking comment. He said in affidavits used to obtain the arrest warrants that he had probable cause to believe that the newspaper and city councilman Ruth Herbel, whose home was also raided, violated state laws against identity theft or computer crime.
Both Herbel and the newspaper said they received a copy of a document about the status of the restaurant owner’s license without asking for it. The document disclosed the woman’s license number and date of birth, which are both required to check a person’s license status online and access a more complete driving record. The chief of police asserts that they violated state laws to do so, while attorneys for the newspaper and Herbel’s lawyers say they did not.
Herbel, the city’s deputy mayor, chaired a city council meeting Monday, its first since the raids. The process took less than an hour, and Herbel announced that the council members would not discuss the raids—something his agenda had already mentioned in a statement in all caps red followed by 47 exclamation marks. She said the council would discuss the raids at a future meeting.
While Herbel said after the meeting that she agreed Cody should resign, other city council members declined to comment. Mike Powers, a retired district court judge who is the only candidate for mayor this fall, said it was too early to make any judgments.
Meyer said the newspaper plans to file a lawsuit over the raid on its offices and his home.
The publisher noted that among the seized items were a computer tower and the personal cellphone of a reporter who was not involved in the dispute with the local restaurant owner — but was investigating why Cody left the job as police captain in Kansas City, Missouri, in April. before becoming Marion Police Chief.
Video from a security camera overlooking the newsroom showed a female officer reading a reporter her rights during the raid. Bernie Rhodes, the newspaper’s attorney, said the action meant she was not free to leave and could have been imprisoned.
“People keep asking me, ‘Why didn’t you actually file a lawsuit?'” Rhodes said. “I don’t want to be reckless like the police. I am doing a thorough investigation.”
Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri. Mission, Kansas, Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth contributed to this report.
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