The Marion Police Department seized computer towers, phones and other equipment from a Kansas newspaper, according to property lists released by the court.
Search warrants were executed Aug. 11 at the Marion County Record, the home of Joan Meyer and her son Eric Meyer, who own the newspaper and the residence of City Councilwoman Ruth Herbel.
The Aug. 11 raid was quickly met with condemnation from free speech advocates around the country and even internationally.
According to documents published Friday by the 8th Judicial District, police seized 18 items. That included the computer towers of publisher Eric Meyer and reporters Phyllis Zorn and Deb Gruver, a server tower, two phones and a Kansas Department of Revenue record, all of which were removed from the newspaper. Police also seized laptops, phones, a computer tower, router, external drive and another KDOR record from the two private residences.
The property receipts said the items were being used as evidence. An offense field on the form was left blank. The documents were signed by Officer Zachariah Hudlin, who has been with the Marion Police Department since October 2017, according to records from the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training.
The devices were returned five days after the search after Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey concluded that “insufficient evidence” existed to establish a “legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized.”
The items were released to a forensic expert who is in the process of conducting an examination to see if any of them had been accessed while under police control.
In the search warrant for the newspaper, Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody said his department was investigating Zorn for identity theft and unlawful acts concerning computers.
Meyer said the reporter received the driving history of Kari Newell, a local businesswoman who lost her driver’s license over a DUI in 2008 and was applying for a liquor license for her restaurant. Zorn then went onto the Kansas Driver’s License Status Check website to verify the information she had received from a source. The site requires a person’s name, license number and date of birth, which had been provided.
“As long as the requestor has the required information, this information is public record and available online,” said Zach Denney, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Revenue, which administers driver’s licenses.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate the case.
The newspaper and its attorney said they are exploring their options in filing a lawsuit.
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