WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A reporter from the Marion County Record has filed a federal lawsuit against Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody.
The lawsuit comes after law enforcement raided the Marion County Record newspaper earlier this month, as well as two other locations, where authorities seized laptops, phones and other reporting material.
In the lawsuit, Gruver is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, punitive damages in excess of $75,000 and legal costs and expenses.
Court documents show Debbie Gruver filed the lawsuit Wednesday. In it, she alleges Cody unlawfully took her personal cell phone while authorities raided the newspaper.
“Chief Cody first handed Ms. Gruver the Warrant when he arrived, and as she began to read it, she began to access her personal cellular phone – telling Chief Cody that she needed to call Eric Meyer,” the court documents read. “Chief Cody responded by reaching over the papers and snatching the phone out of her hand.”
The search warrant was issued because of alleged identity theft and unlawful acts concerning computers in relation to the driver’s license of local business owner Kari Newell.
According to the lawsuit, the search warrant only allowed access to devices that were used to access the Kansas Department of Revenue records website.
Gruver says in the lawsuit there was no factual basis to believe her cell phone was evidence of any crime and was not verified as having been used to access the KDOR records website.
The lawsuit says Gruver was “never once mentioned in the nine-page Affidavit, and neither was her personal cellular phone.”
What Gruver’s lawsuit says, though, is that she was investigating Cody’s alleged misconduct at the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department prior to taking the job at the Marion Police Department.
The search warrant was withdrawn five days later, on Aug. 16, by Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey, saying there was insufficient evidence to establish a link between the alleged crime and the places searched and items seized.
KSN reached out to Cody for comment but has not heard back.
Gruver issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
At this point I will let the lawsuit against Chief Cody do the talking and will have no comment, other than to say: Although I brought this suit in my own name, I’m standing up for journalists across the country. It is our constitutional right to do this job without fear of harassment or retribution, and our constitutional rights are always worth fighting for.“Deb Gruver
You can read the lawsuit in full below: