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Marion County attorney on newspaper raid: 'My involvement in that investigation is being overstated'

Marion County Recorder Kansas Reflector.jpeg
Posted at 4:38 PM, Oct 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-05 17:38:16-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After months of silence, Joel Ensey, Marion County attorney told the KSHB 41 News I-Team about his involvement leading up to the raids on a local newspaper and two homes.

Ensey withdrew former Police Chief Gideon Cody's search warrants following the raids citing a lack of evidence.

While Ensey acknowledged he viewed the warrants after the raids, he would not say if he viewed the warrants ahead of time.

On Thursday, in an email to the I-Team, Ensey wrote:

Although I was aware that the Marion PD was investigating what it believed was a crime in which Kari Newell was a victim, my involvement in that investigation is being overstated. I was first emailed the search warrants on Thursday the 10th, while I was out of the office dealing with personal matters. I first saw the search warrants when I returned to work on Friday. I previewed the warrants, but did not fully review them as I was prepping for a full day in Court. I did not know the warrants were going to be served on that Friday, until my staff received a call from Mr. Cody stating he had a team ready to serve the warrants. At that time, my office staff did take the warrants up for the judge to review, but at no time prior to their execution did I approve them or provide a legal opinion as to their sufficiency.
Joel Ensey

In a court document filed Wednesday, Cody claims he exchanged several emails with Ensey and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation about Cody's claims a reporter at Marion County Record committed a crime by accessing a local restaurant owner's driving record.

According to the court record — filed on behalf of Cody in response to a lawsuit filed by a Record reporter — several discussions took place between Cody, Ensey and the KBI about the crimes Cody accused the newspaper of committing.

KBI took over Cody's investigation following the raids and told the I-Team it was looking into previous steps in the case.

While KBI acknowledges it did assign an agent to Cody's investigation into the paper, the agency claims it did not sign off on the warrants and was not present when the warrants were served.

When asked if KBI was aware Cody was seeking a warrant to raid the newsroom, Melissa Underwood, spokesperson for KBI said in email, "We will answer your question but because it requires a detailed response it is inappropriate for us to address until our investigation concludes. I will follow up with you so you know when we can take additional inquiries. Hope you understand. "

The I-Team pushed back and reminded the spokesperson the agency previously spoke about its involvement. Underwood responded:

"At the time we made those statements we did not have an ongoing investigation related to that matter. We WILL answer your questions — they’re fair questions. We just need to wait a short time longer before it’s appropriate for us to do so."

Underwood told the I-Team KBI will be wrapped up soon with its investigation.