Made famous by Dorothy and her ruby red slippers, that was the memorable moment when Judy Garland’s character realized she had suddenly arrived in the Land of Oz.
Well, Marion County seemed to have a tornado of sorts rip through the little town of Marion (pop. 1,902).
It was like the Land of Oz with a few agendas working behind the curtains of the law.
On Friday, August 11, 2023, the entire five officer Marion city police force along with two sheriff deputies – led by Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody –raided the local newspaper, the Marion County Record.
Chief Cody had just taken the reins of leadership when he was sworn in on June 1, 2023. The local newspaper caught wind of his past, facing allegations of sexual misconduct which resulted in a demotion at the Kansas City Police Department. He had resigned from the KCPD, claiming he was retiring, but then was hired on as to the police department of the little town of Marion, Kans., in April.
The officers seized all of the computers in the newspaper office. All of the cell phones of the newspaper staff. They took pictures of bank documents from newspaper files. They removed every piece of technology necessary for the newspaper to actually publish a newspaper.
Then they raided the home of Publisher Eric Meyer’s mother, Joan Meyer, who was co-publisher. They removed computer equipment from her home, as well. From the stress of the situation, Eric’s 98-year-old mother died the next day. She was shaken by what had happened.
This entire series of events started when a local restaurant owner, Kari Newell, was filing for a liquor license for her catering business. A tip came into the newspaper that she had a DUI back in 2009, which would jeopardize her chances of getting a liquor license. Newell caught wind of the local newspaper investigating her past, and interestingly enough local law enforcement raided the newspaper and the home of co-publisher Joan Meyer under the guise of identity theft.
Judge Laura Viar signed the search warrant to authorize the raid on the Marion County Record. It later came out that the judge also had a history of DUIs, two in 2012 in two separate counties while she served as a top prosecutor in Morris County, Kans.
Somehow, miraculously, the Marion County Record was able to publish their next issue. The story of what happened to the newspaper and their staff made national and even international news.
Newspapers and individuals have sent money to the newspaper as a show of support, knowing they would be facing tremendous legal fees. And, so many newspapers offered technology or whatever it would take to keep their newspaper in operation.
People have responded with an outpouring of support and general interest in what’s happening in Marion, which is why they’ve received more than 4,000 new subscriptions since this story made the news.
Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey withdrew the search warrants, citing a lack of evidence for search and seizure. All equipment that was seized by law enforcement was returned to the newspaper.
They have a police chief that was under investigation by the newspaper about his past conduct, but no story was ever published. They have a local business owner that was requesting a liquor license, and the newspaper was tipped off by someone in the community to look into her DUI. They have a judge who authorized the raid, who happens to have two DUIs on her record. And, the newspaper never published a story about the business owner and her DUI history. They were just investigating the business owner’s past for a possible story.
Oh, the irony of it all. Police Chief Gideon Cody and business owner Kari Newell apparently didn’t want their past revealed in the Marion County Record. Instead, it’s been broadcast all over every media outlet throughout the planet Earth. And all of this for what? A cover up.
What did they think was going to happen? Collectively, they were violating the First Amendment. The judge, police chief and business owner wanted to silence the newspaper.
As the First Amendment reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Unfortunately, Marion County and the City of Marion, Kans., failed the fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution.
Fortunately, everyone else noticed their failure and this will go down in history as an important moment for Freedom of the Press – for the sake of protecting our democracy.