The police chief who led a highly criticized raid of a small Kansas newspaper, that saw its 98-year-old owner die the following day, has been suspended.
Marion Mayor Dave Mayfield said he had suspended Chief Gideon Cody on Thursday but declined to discuss his decision further or say whether Cody is still being paid.
The August 11 raids of the Marion County Record office and the homes of its publisher and a City Council member have been sharply criticized.
Video of the raid on the home of publisher Eric Meyer shows how distraught his 98-year-old mother had become as officers searched through their belongings.
Cody, seen here in plain clothes, became chief of the Marion County Police Department in May, after retiring from Kansas City police department in Missouri. He is being sued by the reporter whose phone he ripped away
Police seized computers, personal cellphones, and a router during the filmed ordeal of the August raid at the Marion County Record
Meyer said he believes that the grief and stress contributed to Joan Meyer’s death one day later.
She was sobbing, couldn’t eat, and died mid-sentence just 12 hours after the ordeal.
Cody’s suspension is a reversal for the mayor, who previously said he would wait for results from a state police investigation before taking action.
Marion Mayor Dave Mayfield said he had suspended Chief Gideon Cody on Thursday
Cody became chief of the Marion County Police Department in late April, after leaving the Kansas City police amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
The incident also flung Marion to the forefront of a debate over press protections offered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Vice-Mayor Ruth Herbel, whose home was also raided August 11, praised Cody’s suspension as ‘the best thing that can happen to Marion right now’ as the central Kansas town of about 1,900 people struggles to move forward under the national spotlight.
‘We can’t duck our heads until it goes away, because it’s not going to go away until we do something about it,’ Herbel said.
Cody has said little publicly since the raids other than posting a defense of them on the police department’s Facebook page.
When Cody was confronted by reporters, he refused to answer any questions, and instead said: ‘Do you realize how angry KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigations) will be at me if I start talking about their case at this point?’
In court documents he filed to get the search warrants, he argued that he had probable cause to believe the newspaper and Herbel, whose home was also raided, had violated state laws against identity theft or computer crimes.
The raids came after a local restaurant owner accused the newspaper of illegally accessing information about them.
Co-owner of the newspaper, Joan Meyer, 98, was distraught at the police raid on her newspaper, died ‘mid-sentence’ half a day after the still-shrouded operation
In video released by the Marion County Record Meyer rolls her walker right up to a police officer and demands he wait outside
She even attempts to stop the men and refuses to answer their questions, replying ‘I’m not going to tell you’ when asked how many computers she has
A spokesman for the agency that maintains those records has said the newspaper’s online search that a reporter did was likely legal even though the reporter needed personal information about the restaurant owner that a tipster provided to look up her driving record.
The newspaper’s publisher Eric Meyer has said the identity theft allegations simply provided a convenient excuse for the search after his reporters had been allegedly digging for background information on Cody, who was appointed this summer.
Legal experts believe the raid on the newspaper violated a federal privacy law or a state law shielding journalists from having to identify sources or turn over unpublished material to law enforcement.
Another reporter last month filed a federal lawsuit against the police chief over the raid.
Following the scandal and the federal lawsuit, the small newspaper said that it was inundated with year-long subscriptions.
Earlier this month Mayor Mayfield told The Wichita Eagle: ‘I mean, everybody’s looking at Marion like we’re a bunch of hicks now.
‘And the police department just did what the judge allowed them to do.’
Eric Meyer, publisher of The Marion County Record, claims the August search was motivated by a reporter’ s investigation into the chief’s background with the police department
A stack of the Marion County Record sits in the back of the newspaper’s building, awaiting unbundling, sorting and distribution following the August raid
The offices of the Marion County Record weekly newspaper sit across the street from the Marion County, Kansas Courthouse
The small-town paper said it has been bombarded with subscribtion orders since the controversy took off
A tribute to the late Marion County Record co-owner Joan Meyer sits outside the newspaper’s office
Questioning the prosecutor who decided to pull the search warrants five days after they’d been executed, he added: ‘Why didn’t he (Ensey) do that in the first place?’
He also said that he was ‘perplexed’ that Cody was receiving criticism.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigations took over the investigation days after the newspaper’s computers and publishing equipment were seized because there were suspicions that the pillage had taken place without proper reasoning from the cops.
They found that there indeed wasn’t enough evidence to have launched the tirade against the local paper – and revoked the warrant.