Kansas Police Chief Resigns After Controversial Raid on Newspaper

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The police chief of Marion, a small town in central Kansas, has resigned from his post after leading a raid on a local newspaper that sparked a national debate over press freedom and the First Amendment.

The Raid on the Marion County Record

On August 11, 2023, Chief Gideon Cody and his officers raided the office of the Marion County Record, a weekly newspaper that covers the town and its surrounding areas. They also searched the homes of the newspaper’s publisher, Eric Meyer, and a city council member, Ruth Herbel, who writes a column for the paper.

Cody obtained warrants for the raids by telling a judge that he had evidence of possible identity theft and other potential crimes tied to the circulation of information about a local restaurant owner’s driving record. The newspaper had published a story about the restaurant owner’s arrest for driving under the influence and her previous convictions.

The newspaper and its attorney have suggested that Cody might have been trying to find out what the paper had learned about his past as a police captain in Kansas City, Missouri, where he had faced allegations of misconduct and abuse of power.

Kansas Police Chief Resigns

The raids were widely criticized by journalists, civil rights groups, and legal experts, who said they violated the First Amendment rights of the press and the public. They also drew international attention and put Marion, a town of about 1,900 residents, under the spotlight.

The Suspension and Resignation of Cody

On September 28, 2023, the mayor of Marion, Dave Mayfield, suspended Cody from his job indefinitely, without giving any reason. The suspension came after the local prosecutor, Joel Ensey, said that there was not sufficient evidence to justify the warrants for the raids and that he would not file any charges against the newspaper or Herbel.

On October 2, 2023, Mayfield announced at a city council meeting that Cody had resigned from his post, effective immediately. He did not provide any details about the resignation or the terms of Cody’s departure. Cody did not respond to requests for comment from the media.

Herbel, who was present at the meeting, said that Cody’s resignation was “the best thing that can happen to Marion right now” and that the town needed to heal and move forward.

The Lawsuits and Investigations

Cody’s resignation does not end the legal troubles that he and the town are facing. The newspaper and Herbel have filed a federal lawsuit against Cody, the mayor, the city, and the county, alleging that the raids violated their constitutional rights and caused them emotional distress and financial harm.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an injunction to prevent future raids on the newspaper or its staff. It also asks for a declaration that the raids were unlawful and a public apology from the defendants.

The lawsuit is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. A hearing date has not been set yet.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) is conducting a separate probe into the raids and Cody’s conduct. The KBI is an independent agency that investigates major crimes and public corruption in the state. The KBI has not disclosed any details or findings of its investigation so far.

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