Kansas Reporter Sues After Police Raid Office

Phyllis Zorn, a reporter for the Marion County Record in Kansas, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Marion and several local officials over the police raid at the newspaper offices in 2023, claiming that the raid caused her physical and mental distress, the Associated Press reported.

Police under the direction of then-Chief Gideon Cody raided the Marion County Record’s offices on August 11, 2023. Search warrants were also served on the home of publisher Eric Meyer. During the raid, officers seized personal cell phones, computers, servers, and other equipment.

Cody said the search was part of an investigation into whether the County Record committed identity theft and computer crimes to access a local restauranteur’s driving records.

According to police affidavits, Cody accused Zorn of illegally obtaining the driving records of restaurant owner Kari Newell. He claimed that the Department of Revenue had informed him that the information was downloaded by Zorn and someone else who claimed to be Newell.

Zorn is seeking $950,000 from the city, former Mayor David Mayfield, former police chief Gideon Cody, as well as the current interim police chief, the county sheriff, a former deputy, and the Marion County Commission. In her lawsuit, Zorn describes the defendants as “co-conspirators” who violated her constitutional right to speech and press freedoms and the protection from unreasonable searches.

Zorn’s is the second lawsuit filed over last year’s raid. Former reporter Deb Gruver sued Gideon Cody in September seeking over $75,000 in actual damages and another $75,000 in punitive damages. The parties are scheduled to appear before a mediator in April.

Attorney Randy Rathbun, a former federal prosecutor, is representing Zorn in the lawsuit. He said in a recent interview that while he is not “anti-law enforcement,” the incident last year “just drives me crazy.” He said that was not how law enforcement should react.

According to the lawsuit, Zorn had previously suffered from seizures that had been controlled by medication for five years. However, within days of the police raid, she once again began suffering from “debilitating” seizures leading to “extreme depression and anxiety.”

The sudden death of Marion County Record co-owner Joan Meyer has also been blamed on the raid. The 98-year-old Meyer collapsed and died the day after police raided her home.