Prosecutors review 10K pages of documents in Marion newspaper raid

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has been investigating whether journalists, law enforcement officers or anyone else broke the law in the events surrounding a raise of the Marion County Record in November.

By

State News

May 1, 2024 - 2:11 PM

Copies of the Aug. 16 edition of the Marion County Record rest on a countertop in the newspaper office. Staffers pulled an all-nighter to get the newspaper out after their equipment was seized by law enforcement. Photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — Kansas special prosecutors have received “a detailed synopsis” of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s ongoing review of last year’s police raid on the Marion County Record.

The CBI since November has been investigating whether journalists, law enforcement officers or anyone else broke the law in the events surrounding the newsroom raid. The investigation has now generated nearly 10,000 pages of documents.

In early April, officials said the CBI would turn the case over to special prosecutors by the end of the month. But a CBI spokesman said Tuesday that the special prosecutors have asked for “additional investigative steps.”

In August 2023, Marion police teamed with sheriff’s detectives and Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents to launch a criminal investigation into the conduct of newspaper editor and publisher Eric Meyer and reporter Phyllis Zorn. Their supposed crime involved looking up public records on the Kansas Department of Revenue’s website. Local authorities then orchestrated the newsroom raid, ignoring federal and state law, and seizing evidence beyond the scope of their search warrant.

The Marion County Record filed a federal lawsuit that accuses the town’s mayor, police chief and sheriff of seeking revenge for critical news coverage.

“Our stress level has been beyond high since the raid,” Meyer said Tuesday. “It certainly hasn’t helped that almost nine months later, we still haven’t been cleared. We remain confident we will be.”

“Still,” he added, “having a sword hovering over your head for three-quarters of a year is not something I would wish on anyone — even the people who illegally raided us.”

The KBI handed over the investigation to the CBI two days after Kansas Reflector revealed that KBI agents were involved in the investigation into journalists before the raid and knew that police planned to raid the newsroom.

On Tuesday, CBI spokesman Rob Low said the special prosecutors had “asked us to take some additional investigative steps before they decided what they wanted to do and if they had a case worth proceeding with, so that’s what we were doing.”

Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson and Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett were appointed special prosecutors in the case.

Bennett said they traveled to Denver this month and “spent the day receiving a detailed synopsis of the investigation.”

“Since that time, the assigned CBI agent has received additional investigative documents, which will be assessed and then forwarded to our attention,” Bennett said.

Bennett said he and Wilkerson are reviewing nearly 10,000 pages of documents generated by the investigation and that their findings will be made public.

Meyer said he has not had contact with anyone from the CBI in nearly four months.

“If the delay has been attributable to ferreting out whether the raid was the result of a conspiracy among elected officials to weaponize law enforcement against political enemies, the delay is at least tolerable,” Meyer said. “If, on the other hand, it has been part of an attempt to justify illegality against us and protect the city, county and others from legal liability for actions of its employees and officials, it is an awfully expensive and ill-conceived whitewash of a grievous abuse of power.”

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