Elderly Owner of Small-Town Kansas Newspaper Dies From Stress After Police Raid: Report

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
August 14, 2023USshare
Elderly Owner of Small-Town Kansas Newspaper Dies From Stress After Police Raid: Report
The last printed issue of the Marion County Record sits in a display in its office in Marion, Kan., on Aug. 13, 2023. (John Hanna/AP Photo)

The 98-year-old co-owner of a small-town Kansas newspaper has died due to stress related to a police raid on the publication’s office, according to the Marion County Record, the paper that was the subject of the search.

“Stressed beyond her limits and overwhelmed by hours of shock and grief after illegal police raids on her home and the Marion County Record newspaper office Friday, 98-year-old newspaper co-owner Joan Meyer, otherwise in good health for her age, collapsed Saturday afternoon and died at her home,” reported the paper, which is located in the small central Kansas town on Marion.

Ms. Meyer’s son, Eric Meyer, who is the editor and publisher of the Marion Country Record, said earlier that four Marion police officers and three sheriff’s deputies on Aug. 11 carried out a raid on his home and the newspaper’s office, seizing personal cell phones and computers.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Meyer expressed criticism for the law enforcement action that he believes was responsible for his mother’s death.

“This is Gestapo tactics from World War II,” he said of the raid, which has been criticized by the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and dozens of media organizations for allegedly having interfered with the paper’s First Amendment-protected newsgathering.

The Epoch Times could not establish the state of Ms. Meyer’s health before the raid was carried out and was unable to reach the Marion County Medical Examiner to confirm the cause of death.

NTD Photo
Eric Meyer, the editor and publisher of the Marion County Record, answers questions about a raid by local police and sheriff’s deputies on his newspaper’s newsroom and his home, in Marion, Kan., on Aug. 13, 2023. (John Hanna/AP Photo)


The search warrant, a copy of which was viewed by The Epoch Times, identifies several pages of items that law enforcement officers were allowed to seize and indicates that the action was related to allegations of identity theft and illegal use of a computer.

The search warrant appeared linked to a dispute between the newspaper and local business owner Kari Newell.

Ms. Newell told The Associated Press she believes the newspaper broke the law to get her personal information as it checked on the status of her driver’s license following a 2008 drunken driving conviction.

In a statement obtained by The Epoch Times, the Marion, Kansas, Police Department said that, “[The] victim asks that we do all the law allows to ensure justice is served,” and the department will do “nothing less.”

Questions have been raised about the legality of the search warrant, which was signed by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, as there are protections in federal law against searching and seizing materials from journalists. Normally, law enforcement is required to obtain a subpoena for such materials.

Mr. Cody, the Marion County police chief, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that he cannot give details of a criminal investigation but explained that there are exceptions to a subpoena requirement, namely when “there is reason to believe the journalist is taking part in the underlying wrongdoing.”

“I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated,” Mr. Cody said.

A spokesperson for Ms. Viar’s office told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that it would not comment on a legal matter “that may come before a Kansas court.”

Mr. Meyer said earlier he plans to sue the city of Marion and the individuals involved in the raid.

“We will be seeking the maximum sanctions possible under law,” he said, per the Record.

Kansas Newspaper Raid
An empty spot on reporter Phyllis Zorn’s desk shows where the tower for her computer sat before law enforcement officers seized it in a raid on the Marion County Record, in Marion County, Kan., on Aug. 13, 2023. (John Hanna/AP Photo)

More Details

A confidential source had contacted the Record with evidence that Ms. Newell had been convicted of drunken driving and continued to operate her vehicle without a license, according to the Kansas Reflector.

A reporter with the Record reportedly verified the information provided by the source, but Mr. Meyer decided not to publish a story about the information, telling the Kansas Reflector that he thought the Record was “being set up.” Instead, he said he contacted the police.

However, after the police notified Ms. Newell about the sensitive information provided by the source to the Record, she reportedly publicly accused the paper at a city council meeting that it had illegally obtained and disseminated the documents.

Ms. Newell’s public remarks at the meeting prompted Mr. Meyer to write an article seeking to set the record straight, with the police raid taking place one day after.

In a statement cited by the Kansas Reflector, Ms. Newell said: “[The] entire debacle was brought forth in an attempt to smear my name, jeopardize my licensing through ABC (state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division), harm my business, seek retaliation, and for personal leverage in an ongoing domestic court battle.”

A reporter for the Record said on social media that she was injured in the raid, which she called “chilling.”

“The chief of the Marion, Kansas Police Department, Gideon Cody, forcibly yanked my cell phone out of my hand, so heads up that I will be without it (my phone, not my hand) for a while,” reporter Deb Gruver wrote in a post on Facebook.

“I’ve filed a report with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation because a previously dislocated finger was re-injured,” she added.

“I thought I lived in the United States,” she wrote.


Press freedom watchdogs and others have condemned the raid, which was unusual as news organizations are largely protected from government intrusion under the First Amendment’s free press guarantees.

In a letter (pdf) to Mr. Cody, attorneys on behalf of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said the raid seemed overly broad and intrusive and that it may have broken the law.

The letter urges Mr. Cody to immediately return any seized equipment and records to the newspaper and launch an independent review into the department’s actions.

“Your department’s seizure of this equipment has substantially interfered with the Record’s First Amendment-protected newsgathering in this instance, and the department’s actions risk chilling the free flow of information in the public interest more broadly, including by dissuading sources from speaking to the Record and other Kansas news media in the future,” the letter states.

Journalist Joel Mathis said in post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that his first newspaper job was for the Record and that the raid was a frightening development.

“Since we don’t know the full details behind the raid … I’m not going to get into all the nitty-gritty,” he wrote in an Aug. 12 op-ed in the Kansas City Star. “But it’s scary when police raid a newspaper. It looks and smells like a threat to the First Amendment. Investigators had better have a damned good—even extraordinary—justification for the search warrant. God help them otherwise.”

The Kansas Press Association described the search as “unprecedented” and “an assault on the very foundation of democracy.”

From The Epoch Times

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