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Marion County Record reporter sues police chief for emotional distress, physical injury following raid

Posted at 4:43 PM, Aug 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-31 15:29:21-04

MARION COUNTY, Kan. — A Marion County Record reporter has filed the first federal lawsuit against the Marion Police Department and its chief following the raid on the newsroom.

Reporter Deb Gruver claimed the raid caused emotional distress, mental anguish and physical injury.

LINK | Read the lawsuit

The lawsuit specifically lists Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody as a defendant.

Cody sought the warrant to raid the newspaper and two homes.

In previous interviews with the KSHB 41 I-Team, Eric Meyer, owner of Marion County Record, said Gruver was investigating Cody prior to the raid regarding his time as a captain at the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department.

The lawsuit claims Cody retaliated against Gruver for exercising her protected rights under the First Amendment.

"Ms. Gruver’s affiliation with the Marion County Record, which had investigated his alleged prior acts of misconduct and recently published the story about Ms. [Kari] Newell’s (restaurant owner) prior driving history, sparked Chief Cody’s desire for retaliation against her personally, in violation of her First Amendment rights," per court documents.

Cody claimed in an affidavit Phyllis Zorn, reporter with Marion County Record, committed identity theft and engaged in illegal acts concerning computers by downloading Newell's driving record.

Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey revoked the warrant and ordered the items seized from the newsroom be returned upon finding insufficient evidence of a crime.

Eric Meyer said Gruver had nothing to do with the story on Newell.

Despite that, Gruver's personal cellphone was taken during the raid.

"Chief Cody first handed Ms. Gruver the Warrant when he arrived, and as she began to read it, she began to access her personal cellular phone – telling Chief Cody that she needed to call Eric Meyer. Chief Cody responded by reaching over the papers and snatching the phone out of her hand."

Gruver previously reported Cody reinjured her finger by snatching the phone out of her hands.

The lawsuit references Cody's affidavits, which legal experts have heavily scrutinized as failing to show probable cause of a crime.

"Chief Cody exceeded the scope of the warrant by seizing Ms. Gruver’s personal cellular phone from her person, despite the fact that neither Ms. Gruver nor her personal cellular phone were referenced anywhere in the Application or Warrant," the lawsuit states. "Chief Cody acted in unreasonable and unnecessarily violent fashion, causing injury to plaintiff Gruver’s rights and her person."

According to the lawsuit, Gruver drove to the police station after the raid in an attempt to get her cellphone back by telling Cody she, "had nothing to do with any search of the driving records."

Gruver claims Cody responded with a grin and said, "I actually believe you."

Additionally, the lawsuit claims Cody was "malicious" and "recklessly" indifferent to Gruver's federally protected rights as a journalist.

Steve Leben, former judge and professor of law at University of Missouri-Kansas City said neither Cody nor Magistrate Judge Laura Viar who signed the warrant took state and federal laws into consideration for journalists.

Officers can be heard reading reporters their Miranda rights during the raid.

Gruver is seeking a minimum of $75,000 in damages.

While Cody could claim qualified immunity, the lawsuit states no reasonable police officer would've done what Cody did.

The I-Team reached out to Cody for comment, but a response was not provided by the time this story was published.