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Sources: KBI seeks out of state help regarding Marion newsroom raid

Posted at 2:30 PM, Dec 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-08 21:55:58-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Multiple sources confirm an outside law enforcement agency has joined Kansas Bureau of Investigation's probe into the events surrounding the raid on the Marion County Record newspaper.

Eric Meyer, publisher of Marion County Record, Deb Gruver, former reporter of the Record, and Ruth Herbel, vice mayor of Marion, told the KSHB 41 I-Team an agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has reached out to them about the case.

Kari Newell, the business woman whose driving record was at the center of the police chief's investigation into the Record, said she was also interviewed.

LINK | Complete Marion coverage

Brief background on key players

Gideon Cody, former Marion police chief, claimed Eric Meyer and Phyllis Zorn, a reporter at the Record, committed various crimes against Newell by looking up her driving record on a state website after receiving a tip.

The Kansas Department of Revenue previously told the I-Team the website used by Zorn is public facing and can be legally accessed if you have a person's driver's license number, which was provided to the newspaper.

Ruth Herbel, vice mayor of Marion, received the same tip and shared that information with the city administrator.

Cody sought charges against Herbel for sharing the information.

Several legal experts said Cody's affidavits provided no evidence of a crime, yet Magistrate Judge Laura Viar signed off on the warrants that led to the raid of the newspaper's offices, the publisher's home, and Herbel's home.

The Kansas Commission on Judicial Conduct recently issued informal advice to the judge to thoroughly read through documents and research state and federal laws regarding press protections.

Outside agents meet with Kari Newell

Kari Newell, the restaurant owner whose driving information was at the center of the police chief's raids, said she visited with two CBI agents for two hours on Thursday.

"They made it clear they are not investigating the newspaper," Newell said.

Newell said the agents had questions about her witness statement, which was given to Gideon Cody, before the raids.

In October, when the I-Team obtained a copy of Newell's statement from the city of Marion, Newell told the I-Team pages were missing.

An attorney for the city said she provided the I-Team with everything that was provided to her by Cody.

"[The agents] asked me to recall what the first half of my statement contained," Newell said.

Newell also said the agents took several text messages from her cellphone.

"They took some between Ryan (ex-husband) and I, Zach Collet (city council member) and the ones from Cody."

In September, the I-Team revealed Cody asked Newell to delete their digitally written discussions following the raids.

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Marion, Kansas, business owner Kari Newell (left) and Marion, Kansas, Chief of Police Gideon Cody.

Newell said the CBI agents asked her if Cody asked her to delete text messages.

Additionally, Newell said CBI asked for screenshots of discussions that took place between Herbel and Record staff on Facebook regarding Newell's driving history prior to the raids.

The Record staff

Eric Meyer and Deb Gruver, who recently left the Record, are supposed to meet with CBI Friday afternoon.

Gruver filed the first civil lawsuit against Cody and the city. Gruver claims her finger was injured when Cody snatched the phone from her hands.

Gruver was not part of the newspaper's investigation into Kari Newell and claims she should not have been targeted during Cody's raids.

Bernie Rhodes, who represents Marion County Record, said the CBI agent wants to interview Eric Meyer about Cody's search warrant.

According to Rhodes, the agent told him Meyer is not the target of his investigation.

Meyer, Gruver and Phyllis Zorn, who looked up Newell's driving information are scheduled to meet with CBI Friday afternoon, according to Meyer.

CBI meets with vice mayor

Ruth Herbel said she also met with the agents on Thursday.

According to Herbel, the agents informed her KBI asked for CBI to step in to get an unbiased opinion on the case.

"He [the agent] didn't understand why [Cody] would charge me," Herbel said. "I got the impression that they did think [Cody's investigation] was the dumbest thing that's happened."

Cody claimed in his affidavit Herbel wanted to deny Newell a liquor license during a city council meeting due to her driving history. The city council does not have the power to refuse a liquor license on behalf of a business owner.

Cody then sought charges against Herbel for sharing a Kansas Department of Revenue letter about Newell's driving information with the city administrator. It's the same tip the newspaper received.

"I told them Cody was a liar because no where did I ever say I wanted to deny Kari's liquor license," Herbel said.

KBI and CBI will not discuss the investigation

The KSHB 41 News I-Team first heard CBI was involved on Dec. 1.

In seeking confirmation, the I-Team reached out to Susan Medina, spokeswoman for CBI.

Medina would not confirm if CBI was involved only saying, "I cannot provide any confirmation at this time. I would refer you back to KBI."

Melissa Underwood, spokeswoman for KBI, would not confirm CBI's involvement either.

KBI knew about search warrant prior to raids

On Tuesday, KSHB 41 News reached out to the office of Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach.

Kobach was previously quoted by reporters as saying KBI was not informed ahead of time of the raids.

An email from a KBI agent, sent on day before the raids, proves KBI knew Cody was seeking to execute a warrant on Eric Meyer's home.

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In a text message to the county attorney, Cody claims KBI supported him "100 percent" one day after the raids.

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Kobach has not returned the I-Team's call.