Former Kansas Newspaper Reporter Settles Lawsuit Over Police Raid for $235K

By | July 8, 2024

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former reporter for a weekly Kansas newspaper has agreed to accept $235,000 to settle part of her federal lawsuit over a police raid on the paper that made a small community the focus of a national debate over press freedoms.

The settlement removed the former police chief in Marion from the lawsuit filed by former Marion County Record reporter Deb Gruver, but it doesn’t apply to two other officials she sued over the raid: the Marion County sheriff and the county’s prosecutor. Gruver’s lawsuit is among five federal lawsuits filed over the raid against the city, the county and eight current or former elected officials or law enforcement officers.

Gruver’s attorney did not immediately respond to emails Friday seeking comment. An attorney for the city, its insurance company, the former chief and others declined to comment but released a copy of the June 25 settlement agreement after the Record filed an open records request. He also provided a copy to The Associated Press.

Former Police Chief Gideon Cody led the Aug. 11, 2023, raid on the newspaper’s office, the home of publisher Eric Meyer and the home of a then-city council member who had been critical of the then-mayor. Marion is a city of about 1,900 people set among rolling prairie hills about 150 miles (241 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City, Missouri, and the Record is known for its aggressive coverage of local government.

At the time, Cody said he had evidence that the newspaper, reporter Phyllis Zorn and the city council member had committed identity theft or other computer crimes in obtaining information about a local business owner’s driving record. All of his targets said they did nothing illegal, and no charges were ever filed.

A federal lawsuit filed by Meyer and the newspaper alleges that the raid caused the death the next day of his 98-year-old mother, who lived with him, and he and the paper’s attorney have suggested that the raid was Cody’s response to the paper investigating his background. Cody seized Gruber’s personal cellphone and had her desk searched; she had no connection to the driving record but was looking into Cody’s past.

The raid sparked national outrage, and Cody resigned as chief in early October, less than two months after the raid. Legal experts have said the raid likely violated state or federal laws.

Topics Lawsuits Law Enforcement Kansas

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