The student news site for De Soto High School Journalism.

The Green Pride

The student news site for De Soto High School Journalism.

The Green Pride

The student news site for De Soto High School Journalism.

The Green Pride

Violation of the First Amendment Opinion: A Restriction of the Press

An overview of the newspaper printer raid in Marion, Kansas.

The first amendment of the constitution reads, “… that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  Americans live by these words every day. Unfortunately, this set of common rights has been recently challenged by a Sheriff’s department in Marion, Kansas. 

According to The Washington Post, deputies led by Chief Gideon Cody stormed the Marion County Record, the local newspaper printer, the editor in chief, Eric Meyer’s, house, as well as the house of a local city councilwoman in Marion, after receiving a search warrant from Magistrate Judge Laura Viar in Marion on August 11th, 2023. A local restaurant owner, Kari Newell, believed that The Record was attempting to steal her identity due to their possession of old drunk driving files from 2008, her name, date of birth, as well as her driver’s license number. Newell believed these documents were “illegally” in The Record’s possession as part of a story she believed they planned to publish.

However, these claims were soon proven false. Unlike Newell’s accusations, a source, Pam Maag, sent these files to The Record. Criminal charges are a matter of public record and can be easily accessed by anyone wanting to obtain them. The Record notified the Sheriff’s Department about their possession of these files, as they did not know if certain information was obtained legally or not. The department had no reply; instead, they showed up at the Record’s doors on that Friday and pursued their raid. The Record initially considered covering a  story about Newell but decided it did not meet the standards of newsworthiness. 

During the raid of The Record, The Marion Sheriff’s Department confiscated all of their equipment and many photos, including photos of Meyer’s personal financial information. However, they did not confiscate the item they were there for; Newell’s “personal information”. The co-owner, Joan Meyer, a ninety-eight-year-old woman, was in Meyer’s house when it was raided. Deputies were there for seven hours, taking her belongings. The Marion County Record released a statement regarding Mrs. Meyers’ final hours stating, “She was stressed beyond her limits and overwhelmed by shock and grief…” She died of a heart attack the next morning. Unfortunately, this event was so stressful during, and afterward that Mr. Meyer has not even been able to grieve his mother’s passing. 

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This situation was in complete violation of the First Amendment. Due to a woman making an extremely false claim, Judge Viar and the Marion Sheriff’s Department made rash decisions without even investigating first. All Newell wanted to do was stop the information about her drunk driving case from reaching the public so it would not taint her reputation. Unfortunately, taking action to do so released that information anyway, as well as putting her in a negative light. 

According to The Record, Mayor of Marion David Mayfield claims he had no idea this raid was taking place. Ryan Newell essentially called this claim impossible as Mayfield was allegedly in contact with the city administrator, Brogan Jones before the raid. Cody’s employment is now up for debate as he led the raid. 

Freedom of the press is a human right that everyone in the country is entitled to. To have such a fundamental right challenged is an enormous deal. Instead of raiding the local press, the Sheriff’s department should have looked into Newell’s claims, and Judge Viar should have never signed a search warrant. This situation required more thought than what was given to it. This failure in the system fell on Chief Cody and Judge Viar as they completely disregarded the constitutional rights of the five individuals employed at The Record. 

The Kansas Scholastic Press Association commented on the situation summing up what the journalism world is thinking. “…The high schoolers in our Kansas journalism classrooms seem to know the law better than those who tried to silence the Marion County Record…”

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About the Contributor
Liz Coenen, Graphic Design Editor
Meet Liz Coenen, the Graphic Design Editor. This is Liz's senior year, as well as her second year on staff. When Liz isn't designing for The Green Pride she is either working, listening to music, hanging out with friends, at a crystal shop, or at your local thrift store. Besides Newspaper, Liz is involved in AP classes at DHS. You can reach Liz at [email protected]

Comments (1)

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    EricSep 15, 2023 at 5:46 pm

    Hi! Nice summary, though there are a few relevant bits that could be added. The search warrant that was granted only allowed seizing computers and devices that were used to retrieve info from the state website. Instead, they seized every functioning computer and device in the building. Since that clearly exceeded the scope of the warrant, this was also a violation of the 4th amendment (which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, which is why they needed the warrant in the first place). Also, the police asserted under oath (in the probable cause affidavit used to get the search warrant) that specific text was on the website used to verify the information that the newspaper was given. It turns out that, even though they verified who had accessed the state website before they got the search warrant, they then included text that was from a completely different website. That text (a list of options to select for why you were using the website) was used to argue that they must either claimed to be the person whose info they were getting, or must have lied about why they were accessing the data. That allegation formed the basis of the claim that a crime had been committed. Since it turns out to be false, that means that the police never had ANY actual facts that provided probable cause, much less enough to justify the raid.