Kansas City Star. September 13, 2023.
Editorial: Thanks, Kansas, for standing on the right side of press freedom history — finally
The Marion County Record raid warrant has been withdrawn. Too little, too late.
Investigators are returning the items seized at the newspaper’s office and its owners’ home. The prosecutor on the case cites “insufficient evidence.” Thanks, but media law experts have been saying the same thing since Friday.
What kept you?
In a statement Wednesday, Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey wrote that he had concluded that “insufficient evidence exists to establish a legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and items seized.”
This means the Record will get back the items it needs to continue its heroic work of covering a town and protecting its residents. They will get back the computers, cellphones and other electronic devices and documents taken, including, we assume, the router that connected the late Mrs. Joan Meyer’s Alexa speaker.
Mrs. Meyer, 98, died the day after the raid, after suffering a sleepless night and a lot of stress. Much has been written about the paper’s co-owner, a newswoman since 1953, and the role she played in the operations of the paper. Her last statement on the matter described the “Hitler tactics” of the police in raiding the paper and her home.
Which is why we say too little, too late — with the law acting now, only after the nation’s scrutiny has fallen on Kansas, and after something could have been done to stop this police action in the first place.
1. Too little, too late on the part of prosecutor Ensey, who was remiss in taking five days to realize what should have been done immediately.
2. Too little, too late on the part of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which earlier appeared to support the raid.
3. Too little, too late on the part of Gov. Laura Kelly, who said basically nothing about the attack on press freedoms after reporters asked her. (Governor, if you do come forward now, after news of the warrant being revoked reaches your office, it really will be TL,TL. But we welcome your statement.)
Too little, too late on the part of Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, who approved the raid despite having a complicated background that might have clouded her decision.
And certainly too little, too late on the part of Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody, who appeared to move with jackboot accuracy to the aforementioned “Hitler tactics” cited by the late Mrs. Meyers.
We welcome a return to publishing by the Marion Country Record, and hope this incident serves as a wake-up call to law enforcement everywhere.
We call for Kansas (and Missouri) to work swiftly and pass legislation that clearly protects the press, as well as send a message to law enforcement and state officials down to the most local of levels that such tactics will not be tolerated.