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Did the Marion County attorney review search warrants prior to newspaper raid? He won't say

Marion County Record Search.png
Posted at 4:58 PM, Sep 01, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Did Joel Ensey, Marion County attorney, review the search warrants prior to the raids on Marion County Record newspaper and two homes?

He won't say.

Court records show Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody sought the search warrants, which were signed off on by Magistrate Judge Laura Viar.

What isn't clear from the records is if any other legal authority played a role in reviewing the affidavits prior to the raids.

The affidavits, written by Cody, failed to provide probable cause of the crimes alleged: identify theft and illegal use of computers.

Steve Leben, former judge and Professor of Law at University of Missouri-Kansas City referred to Cody's affidavits as "weak."

Leben said Judge Viar should not have approved the search warrants.

Ensey revoked the warrants on Aug. 16, five days after Marion police and the sheriff's department seized computers, cellphones and documents from the newspaper's office, the newpaper owner's home and the home of Ruth Herbel, vice mayor of Marion.

In a press release, Ensey said he did not find sufficient evidence that a crime occurred at the places searched.

The I-Team confirmed both Marion County and the city of Marion hired attorneys one day after Ensey revoked the warrants.

While Ensey stated in his press release he reviewed the warrants on the Monday following the raids, he did not mention if he was aware of the search warrants prior to the raids.

On Aug. 22, the KSHB 41 News I-Team sent Ensey an email asking if Ensey reviewed the warrants prior to the raids.

Ensey did not respond.

Two days later, the I-Team replied to the initial email, asking Ensey to confirm he received it.

Ensey did not respond.

The I-Team tried to reach Ensey at the phone number listed on the county's website but was told he was not available.

Ensey did not return the I-Team's call.

On Friday, Sept. 1, the KSHB 41 I-Team sent another email asking Ensey two questions:

"Can you please confirm if you verbally or physically signed off on the warrants prior to the raid?"

And...

"Did you view Gideon Cody's affidavits prior to Judge Laura Viar signing off?"

Emails with Joel Ensey
Emails with Joel Ensey
Emails with Joel Ensey
Emails with Joel Ensey

Ensey responded but didn't answer if he reviewed the search warrants prior to the raids, only saying, "I do not write or approve search warrants."

The I-Team responded, asking again, if Ensey reviewed Cody's affidavits.

Ensey replied but still would not answer the question, writing, "At this time, I do not have any further comment."

Joel Ensey's email
Joel Ensey's email

Leben said Ensey is being "cagey."

"His original statement at the time (he revoked the warrants) was that he carefully reviewed the affidavit the Monday after the Friday raid," Leben said. "Now he declines to say whether he reviewed it earlier. Having told us he carefully reviewed it on Monday, there's no legal reason I can think of why he can't tell us whether he saw it before the raid."