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Kansas newspaper owner sues local police for $10 million

Last year, we covered a shocking story out of Marion County, Kansas, where a small, locally owned newspaper was raided by the local police along with the home of the paper's publisher. Multiple laptops, phones, and records were seized from the Marion County Record and its publisher, Eric Meyer. The reasons offered for the raid seemed specious and they don't sound any better today. Now, Meyer is bringing a $10 million dollar lawsuit against the police department for damages, along with a claim that the raid resulted in the death of Eric Meyer's mother. This small-town incident has ballooned into a national story raising questions about First Amendment rights and police corruption.

From Straight Arrow News:

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, April 1, the Marion County Record — a weekly newspaper in Kansas — and its publisher, Eric Meyer, said that raids by the local police department at the newspaper’s offices and the publisher’s home subjected its staff to unreasonable searches and seizures. The lawsuit also alleges that the raid of the publisher’s home led to the death of his mother, who lived with Meyer.

The police department reportedly seized the publication’s computers, cellphones from reporters and sensitive documents. In total, the plaintiffs estimate that they are looking at more than $10 million in damages.

Meyer claims in the lawsuit that the stress of the police department’s actions during the raids caused his mother’s deadly heart attack a day after the incident.

The original reason offered by the police for raiding the newspaper made no sense at all. Reportedly, the paper had been investigating a story typical of small towns that usually wouldn't merit coverage in a large paper. They had been looking into a local restaurant owner who had supposedly had her driver's license suspended because of a DUI. They also claimed to have proof that she had continued driving while the license was suspended. But the woman was allegedly a friend of the Chief of Police. The Police Chief, who has since resigned, claimed that the newspaper had engaged in "identity theft and other crimes." But the paper was simply reporting on publicly available records.

It clearly appears that the newspaper suffered damages as a result of the raid. Meyer is claiming that the total cost adds up to ten million dollars. Meyer is further blaming the police for the death of his mother, who passed away the day after the raid from a stroke. That claim may be a bit harder to prove in court, but it was a tragic outcome for the editor nonetheless.

This is a touchy situation for Meyer because the town's entire budget is only $8.7 million. Some are accusing him of trying to bankrupt the town, a claim that he denies. It seems as if the town would be required to carry some sort of insurance that would offset the costs if they lose the lawsuit. For his part, Meyer says he is obligated to pursue this course to highlight "outrageous violations" of constitutional rights by rogue law enforcement officials.

This story makes me wonder how much of this sort of activity goes on in small towns around the country without the rest of the nation ever hearing about it. Most of us are probably aware of low-level official corruption that takes place on a regular basis without the story ever blowing up at a national level. 

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