One of the reporters who works at the small Kansas newspaper that was raided by authorities earlier this month filed a federal lawsuit against the police chief Wednesday.
Deb Gruver believes Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody violated her constitutional rights when he abruptly snatched her personal cellphone out of her hands during a search where officers also seized computers from the Marion County Record's office, according to the lawsuit. That Aug. 11 search and two others conducted at the homes of the newspaper's publisher and a City Council member have thrust the town into the center of a debate over the press protections in the First Amendment.
Cody didn't immediately respond to an email or text message from The Associated Press on Wednesday seeking comment. He has said little publicly since the raids. In court documents he filed to get the search warrants, he argued that he had probable cause to believe the newspaper and City Council member Ruth Herbel, whose home was also raided, had violated state laws against identity theft or computer crimes.
But the newspaper's publisher, Eric Meyer, has said he believes the identity theft allegations provided a convenient excuse for the search, and the police chief was really upset about Gruver's investigation into his background with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department before he was hired in Marion earlier this year. Meyer has said he plans to file his own lawsuit.
Gruver said in a statement that by filing her lawsuit “I’m standing up for journalists across the country."
“It is our constitutional right to do this job without fear of harassment or retribution, and our constitutional rights are always worth fighting for,” Gruver said.
The police department's investigation of the newspaper began after a local restaurant owner accused reporters of improperly using personal information to access details about the status of her driver's license and her record that included a DUI arrest.
Josh Funk, The Associated Press