Former reporter settles $235,000 in part of her lawsuit over raid on Kansas newspaper

By JOHN HANNA – Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — A former reporter for a Kansas weekly newspaper has agreed to accept $235,000 to settle part of her lawsuit in federal court over a police raid on the newspaper that put a small community at the center of a national debate about press freedom.

The settlement excluded the former Marion police chief from the lawsuit brought by former Marion County Record reporter Deb Gruver, but did not exclude two other officials she sued over the raid: the Marion County sheriff and the county’s district attorney. Gruver’s lawsuit is one of five federal lawsuits filed over the raid against the city, the county and eight current or former elected officials or police officers.

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Gruver’s attorney did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Friday. An attorney for the city, its insurance company, the former chief and others declined comment but released a copy of the June 25 settlement agreement after The Record filed an open records request. He also provided a copy to The Associated Press.

Former police chief Gideon Cody led the Aug. 11, 2023, raid on the newspaper’s offices, the home of publisher Eric Meyer and the home of a then-city council member who had criticized the then-mayor. Marion is a town of about 1,900 people set among rolling prairie hills about 150 miles southwest of Kansas City, Missouri, and the Record is known for its aggressive coverage of local government.

Cody said at the time that he had evidence that the newspaper, reporter Phyllis Zorn and the city council member committed identity theft or other computer crimes to obtain information about the driving habits of a local business owner. All of his victims said they did nothing illegal and no charges were ever filed.

A federal court lawsuit filed by Meyer and the newspaper alleges that the raid caused the death the next day of his 98-year-old mother, who lived with him. He and the newspaper’s lawyer have suggested that the raid was Cody’s response to the newspaper’s investigation into his background. Cody confiscated Gruber’s personal cellphone and had her desk searched. She had no connection to the traffic record but was looking into Cody’s past.

The raid sparked nationwide outrage, and Cody resigned as chief in early October, less than two months after the raid. Legal experts have said the raid likely violated state or federal law.

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