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Marion County attorney withdraws search warrant against Kansas newspaper; returns items

County attorney cites 'insufficient evidence' for search, seizure
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Posted at 12:01 PM, Aug 16, 2023

MARION, Kan. — A search warrant that cleared the way for the raid of a Kansas newspaper last Friday has been withdrawn, KSHB 41 I-Team reporter Jessica McMaster learned late Wednesday morning.

Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey withdrew the warrant that served as the basis for the raid of the Marion County Record by the Marion Police Department last Friday.

As part of withdrawing the warrant, Bernie Rhodes, the attorney representing the newspaper, says all items that were seized as part of the raid have been released back to the attorney representing the newspaper.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation shared Wednesday afternoon that its investigation will move forward independently "and without review or examination of any of the evidence seized on Friday, Aug. 11."

Rhodes tells the KSHB 41 I-Team that a forensics expert is on standby to examine the items that were seized. Once those items are in the possession of the expert, the expert plans to make a "forensic copy" and then check to see if anything was accessed or altered.

Ensey issued a press release Wednesday, stating the affidavits established probable cause that an employee at the Marion County Record may be guilty of unlawful acts concerning computers, but that there was not sufficient evidence between the "alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized."

The county attorney said he is asking the courts to publicly release the affidavits.

The KBI will submit findings of its investigation to the Marion County Attorney's Office.

KSHB 41 News spoke with Allen Rostron, a constitutional law professor at University of Missouri - Kansas City. Rostron is not connected to the case in Marion. He said often times attorneys ask judges to suppress information after prosecutors press charges if they believe law enforcement obtained the evidence illegally. In this case, the county attorney took those steps long before any formal criminal charges. But Rostron said the investigation is not over.

“There can still be an investigation, but it won't be done in a way that does conflict with our desire to protect freedom of the press," Rostron said. "It's not a perfect do-over or elimination of any potential harm, but at least it's better than if the problem was continuing."