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Marion police chief who helped conduct raid on newspaper office is former KCPD captain

Marion County Recorder Kansas Reflector.jpeg
Posted at 3:14 PM, Aug 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-13 17:28:44-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo — The police chief who helped execute a search warrant on a Kansas newspaper's office on Friday recently retired from the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department.

Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody served as a KCPD captain after receiving a promotion in December 2014, according to KCPD's internal newsletter, The Informant.

Cody's last day with the department was April 22, 2023, according to a list of retirements posted on the Kansas City Police Employees' Retirement Systems website.

The following month, the Marion County Record reported the Marion City Council was in the final stages of hiring Cody as the city's next police chief.

Now, less than five months on the job, the Marion Police Department led by Cody has launched an unprecedented raid on a newspaper office that's generating backlash from first amendment and press freedom advocates.

Eric Meyer, who owns and co-publishes the Marion County Record, reported the newspaper's office and his home were raided by members of the Marion Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department.

Meyer said computers, cell phones, and other materials were seized during the raid at the newspaper.

Meyer lived with his mother, Joan Meyer, 98, who was co-owner of the paper.

Eric Meyer reported on Saturday his mother died as a result of the raid.

“Stressed beyond her limits and overwhelmed by hours of shock and grief after illegal police raids on her home and the Marion County Record newspaper office Friday, 98-year-old newspaper co-owner Joan Meyer, otherwise in good health for her age, collapsed Saturday afternoon and died at her home.”

Eric Meyer wrote his mom could not eat or sleep after the raid.

"She tearfully watched during the raid as police not only carted away her computer and a router used by an Alexa smart speaker but also dug through her son Eric’s personal bank and investments statements to photograph them. Electronic cords were left in a jumbled pile on her floor."

The KSHB I-Team reached out to Eric Meyer by phone and email Sunday afternoon but did not hear back by the time this story was published.

News of Friday's raid became widely circulated Friday night by the Kansas Reflector, an independent media outlet operating in the state.

Meyer told the Kansas Reflector he believed the raid was connected to a series of events that included a public meeting held earlier this month by U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner (R - KS 2nd District) at a coffee shop operated by Kari Newell.

Despite the meeting being open to the public, Newell told two members of the Marion County Record to leave.

Meyer said the newspaper then received a tip about Newell allegedly driving without a valid driver’s license after a traffic offense in 2008.

Meyer told the Reflector that, although a reporter used a publicly-accessible database on the Kansas Department of Revenue's website to confirm the information, the newspaper declined to publish a story.

Instead, Meyer said he notified local police of the situation.

Marion County Magistrate Judge Laura Viar signed off on the search warrant.

In 2022, Viar was named magistrate judge by the 8th Judicial District Nominating Commission. Prior to her appointment, she served as the county attorney for Morris County, Kansas.

The KSHB 41 I-Team contacted Cody Sunday morning for a copy of the search warrant and other records.

"As much as I would like to give everyone details on a criminal investigation, I cannot," Cody replied in an e-mail. "I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated."

Cody also took to the department's Facebook page to defend the investigation.

In a statement provided by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the agency states it was asked to join the Marion Police Department and Marion County Attorney on Tuesday in investigating "allegations of illegal access and dissemination of confidential criminal justice information."

"The Marion Police Department and the Marion County Attorney asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) to join an investigation into allegations of illegal access and dissemination of confidential criminal justice information. The KBI assigned an agent to this case last Tuesday and has been assisting since that time. The KBI agent did not apply for the search warrants in question, and he was not present when the warrants were served. 

"Director Mattivi believes very strongly that freedom of the press is a vanguard of American democracy. Without free speech and a free press, our society is not likely to see appropriate accountability of public officials. But another principle of our free society is equal application of the law. The KBI is entrusted to investigate credible allegations of illegal activity without fear or favor. In order to investigate and gather facts, the KBI commonly executes search warrants on police departments, sheriff’s offices, and at city, county and state offices. We have investigated those who work at schools, churches and at all levels of public service. No one is above the law, whether a public official or a representative of the media."
Melissa Underwood, KBI communications director