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Kansas Newspaper Sues Local Police Over 2023 Raid That Led to Death of 98-Year-Old Owner

Chase Castor for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The local newspaper based in Marion, Kansas that was raided by police last year under orders from the former mayor filed a federal lawsuit on Monday for “malicious and wanton violations” of the First and Fourth Amendments, citing an “ill-fated attempt to silence the press.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marion County Record publisher and editor Eric Meyer and the estate of his late mother, Joan Meyer, the 98-year-0ld co-owner who suffered a fatal heart attack the day after the raid was conducted at both the newspaper’s offices and the Meyer home.

The 127-page legal document states that Joan Meyer’s death was due to “the stress of the illegal raid.”

It also states that the lawsuit was filed “to seek justice for the intolerable violation of their constitutional rights and the constitutional rights of Joan Meyer, and to deter the next crazed cop from threatening democracy the way Chief Cody did when he hauled away the newspaper’s computers and its reporters’ cell phones in an ill-fated attempt to silence the press.”

Meyer told the Kansas Reflector on Monday, “The last thing we want is to bankrupt the city or county, but we have a duty to democracy and to countless news organizations and citizens nationwide to challenge such malicious and wanton violations of the First and Fourth Amendments and federal laws limiting newsroom searches.”

The lawsuit alleges the “coconspirators,” including former Marion Mayor David Mayfield and the town’s former police chief Gideon Cody, used falsified and invalid search warrants to retaliate for unfavorable news coverage. Mayfield, who resigned shortly after the scandal caused by the Aug. 11 raid, had called journalists “the real villains.”

According to the Associated Press, this is the fourth lawsuit filed in federal court over the raid. Deb Gruver, now a former reporter, filed the first lawsuit in 2023; that trial is set for September 2025. Reporter Phyllis Zorn filed the second lawsuit in February and the third was filed last week by the newspaper’s office manager.

Meyer is seeking damages for the death of his mother and the cost of her funeral, and an attorney’s note indicates that “my clients are likewise entitled to punitive
damages” that they estimate to “exceed $4 million.”

The search was condemned at the time by legacy papers including The New York Times and The Washington Post as “government overreach” and flagrant abuse of freedom of the press.

“If we prevail, we anticipate donating any punitive damages to community projects and causes supporting cherished traditions of freedom,” Meyer told the Reflector.

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