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Former Kansas reporter accepts $235K settlement in lawsuit over police raid of local newspaper

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Former Kansas reporter accepts 5K settlement in lawsuit over police raid of local newspaper


A former reporter for a Kansas newspaper has accepted $235,000 to settle part of her federal lawsuit over a police raid on the local newspaper that made national headlines for concerns about press freedom violations.

Former Marion County Record reporter Deb Gruver reached the settlement on June 25 following her lawsuit against former Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody, who is accused of reinjuring Gruver’s previously injured hand when he allegedly grabbed her personal phone during an Aug. 11, 2023, raid on the newspaper.

The settlement removed Cody from the lawsuit, but the Marion County sheriff and the county’s prosecutor – who were also sued by Gruver over the raid – were not covered by the settlement, according to The Associated Press.

Gruver’s lawsuit is one of five federal suits filed over the raid against the city, county and eight current or former elected officials or law enforcement officers.

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KANSAS POLICE RAID NEWSPAPER’S OFFICE, PUBLISHER’S HOME TO SEIZE RECORDS; REPORTER INJURED

A former reporter for the Marion County Record in Kansas has accepted $235,000 to settle part of her federal lawsuit after she was injured during a police raid on the newspaper. (AP)

Cody led the raid on the newspaper’s office, the home of publisher Eric Meyer and the home of a then-city council member after a source contacted the newspaper and the then-city council member with information about a restaurant owner who was trying to obtain a liquor license.

The source said Kari Newell had been convicted of drunk driving and was driving without a valid driver’s license, and that law enforcement was allegedly ignoring Newell’s repeated violations.

Meyer decided not to publish the story and instead told Cody and Marion County Sheriff Jeff Soyez about the information offered by the source. Law enforcement then launched an investigation and obtained a search warrant for evidence of identity theft and criminal use of a computer and alerted Newell.

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Computers, cellphones and reporting materials were then seized over alleged violations related to identity theft and unlawful acts concerning computers after a search warrant was signed by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar. Law enforcement was also given authorization to search for devices used to access the Kansas Department of Revenue’s records website, as well as documents and records pertaining to Newell.

KANSAS REPORTER SUES TOWN, LOCAL OFFICIALS OVER POLICE RAID OF NEWSPAPER OFFICE

The federal Privacy Protection Act prohibits law enforcement from most searches of journalists and newsrooms and usually requires police to issue subpoenas rather than search warrants. The police department said at the time that the law does not apply to instances when journalists are suspected of criminal wrongdoing.

At the time, Cody said he had evidence that the newspaper, reporter Phyllis Zorn and the then-city council member had committed identity theft or other computer crimes through obtaining information about Newell. The three denied doing anything illegal and charges were never filed.

Zorn is seeking $950,000 in damages in her federal lawsuit for being deprived of press and speech freedoms and the protection from unreasonable police searches guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

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Seized newspaper

The lawsuit by former Marion County Record reporter Deb Gruver is one of five federal lawsuits filed over the raid of the newspaper. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

During the search of the newspaper office and Meyer’s home, officers removed two computers and an Alexa smart speaker used by Meyer’s 98-year-old mother and newspaper co-owner. She collapsed and died in her home the day after the raid despite otherwise being in good health for her age, her son said at the time.

Meyer and the newspaper filed a federal lawsuit alleging the raid caused his mother’s death. The lawsuit also suggested the raid was carried out in response to an investigation into Cody’s background.

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Cody seized Gruber’s personal phone and had her desk searched. While she was not involved in obtaining the driving record, she was investigating Cody’s past.

The raid led to national outrage over press freedom concerns. Cody resigned as police chief less than two months after the raid.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Live Updates: Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox (Game Three)

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Live Updates: Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox (Game Three)


On Sunday, the Kansas City Royals (54-45) will host the Chicago White Sox (27-73) at Kauffman Stadium for an afternoon clash at 1:10 PM CDT. The game will be broadcast on NBCSCH and Bally Sports Kansas City.

The Royals, fighting for a Wild Card berth, will send All-Star and Cy Young candidate Seth Lugo (11-4, 2.48 ERA) to the mound. Lugo has been a dominant force this season, boasting 116 strikeouts and consistently delivering standout performances.

The White Sox will counter with right-hander Drew Thorpe (3-1, 3.58 ERA). While Thorpe has shown promise in his outings, he faces a formidable Royals offense eager to maintain their playoff push.

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Teddy Roosevelt came to Kansas in 1910 with a vision for democracy's long game. It's still vital. • Kansas Reflector

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Teddy Roosevelt came to Kansas in 1910 with a vision for democracy's long game. It's still vital. • Kansas Reflector


Theodore Roosevelt arrived at 9:30 in the morning at the Osawatomie depot on the Missouri Pacific from Pueblo. The 51-year-old former president must have been weary, because on the previous day he had been greeted by thousands in Colorado, met with dignitaries, and laid the cornerstone of the new YMCA. Since his return from an extended African safari a few months earlier, he had been pressed into civic service at appearances across the nation, placing stones in wet mortar or otherwise helping dedicate new public buildings and parks.

But today — Aug. 31, 1910 — in Kansas, he aimed to lay a metaphorical cornerstone for a new political philosophy. He would call for Americans to come together to work for the good of all, instead of for the robber barons who dominated society

The turmoil of the current election cycle has me thinking about Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism,” and how relevant it remains today. The former president was concerned, as many of us are now, about the future of American democracy and the welfare of the common people.

Roosevelt carefully chose the location for the most important speech of his political career. Osawatomie was a town of about 5,000 on the banks of the Marais de Cygnes River in northwest Kansas, but it had outsized political significance.

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It was here, on another August day, in 1856, that several hundred pro-slavery men had attacked the free-state settlers, killed five of them, then sacked and burned the town. It had been founded just two years earlier by the New England Emigrant Aid Company, which provided support to free-staters to relocate in Kansas Territory.

The “Battle of Osawatomie” was one of the defining moments in the history of Bleeding Kansas, the grim prelude to the Civil War. John Brown, a zealous abolitionist, had been among the defenders who were routed. The town was rebuilt after the attack, the war over slavery would come and eventually end, and Osawatomie would become one of those small Kansas towns — like Baxter Springs, Fort Scott or Dodge City — remembered mostly for its past.

When Roosevelt came in 1910, the battle was still within memory of some of those attending, but for most had receded into the safety of the past. It was for the history books. The radicalism of abolitionists like Brown, which in 1856 had burned with a sometimes murderous intensity — he and his informal militia shot and hacked to death five pro-slavery neighbors along Pottawatomie Creek — had cooled from the passage of time. The question was settled, Brown was dead, Kansas had been admitted as a free state, and the war was long over.

The Republican Party formed in 1854 to oppose the expansion of slavery. Its first presidential nominee, pathfinder John C. Frémont, lost to Democrat James Buchanan, but the party found a winner in Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. The Kansas Republican Party was founded in 1859 at Osawatomie, at the Jillson Hotel. In attendance was Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune, and one of the founders of the national party.

So it was that Roosevelt came to Osawatomie in 1910 with his own radical vision of what his party, the Republican Party, could be. The party of Lincoln had originally stood for labor, he knew, but in the intervening decades had become the party of capital.

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Roosevelt, the running mate of William McKinley, became president in 1901 when McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist at the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo. At 42, he was the youngest U.S. president ever. He had previously served as governor of New York, and of course was already famous because of his “Rough Rider” regiment during the Spanish-American War. He was also a rancher, historian, naturalist and writer. His foreign policy — although brutally imperialistic, especially when it came to the Philippines — paved the way for the United States to become a world power. In many ways, he was the first modern American president.

During his two terms in office, Roosevelt drifted left of his party, so much so that by 1908 he was railing against “predatory wealth” and urging an unmoved Congress to adopt new labor laws.

William Howard Taft, with Roosevelt’s blessing, was the Republican nominee in 1908 and won handily against Democrat William Jennings Bryan. But Roosevelt soon became disillusioned with Taft because he saw the new administration falling in line with the party’s rigid, pro-monopoly political conservatives.

By the time Roosevelt came to Osawatomie in 1910, he had already formulated his new political philosophy of “New Nationalism,” an extension of his Square Deal domestic policies. One of his official duties that day was to dedicate the new “Battleground Memorial Park.” His political agenda was to lay out his progressive vision for America.

“Most of the items on his agenda had appeared in one or another of his annual messages as president,” the historian H.W. Brands notes in his 1997 biography of Roosevelt. “Yet he had never stated his objectives so comprehensively or packaged them so concisely as a single approach to the country’s problems.”

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The John Brown Cabin Museum at Osawatomie, operated by the Kansas Historical Society, houses the cabin where the abolitionist Brown lived in the 1850s. The hilltop site was the location where, in 1910, former president Theodore Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism” speech. (Max McCoy/Kansas Reflector)

There is a photograph, reproduced in an issue of a scholarly journal, that shows Roosevelt delivering his remarks. The ex-president is standing on what appears to be a dining room table draped with an American flag. He’s dressed in a dark three-piece suit, a sheaf of papers in his hand. There’s a knot of listeners around him, some of them perhaps other speakers, and the former president and his plinth-like table and all the rest are in the middle of a grove of trees within battlefield park.

“Our country — this great Republic — means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy, the triumph of popular government,” Roosevelt told the crowd.

There had been two great crises in American history, he said, the first being the challenge of its founding and the second when it threatened to fracture during the Civil War.

“With this second period of our history the name of John Brown will forever be associated,” Roosevelt said, “and Kansas was the theater upon which the first act of the second of our national life dramas was played. It was the result of the struggle in Kansas which determined that our country should be in deed as well as in name devoted to both union and freedom, that the great experiment of a democratic government on a national scale should succeed and not fail.”

Roosevelt advocated that day for equal opportunity and the rewards of hard work, for curbing the influence of special interests, for ending political contributions by corporations.

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“The object of government is the welfare of the people,” he declared.

At another point: “Political action must be made simpler, easier, and freer from confusion for every citizen.”

And this: “No matter how honest and decent we are in our private lives, if we do not have the right kind of law and the right kind of administration of the law, we cannot go forward as a nation.”

Part of what had propelled Roosevelt to activism was a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lochner v. New York, which found a law limiting working hours for bakers was unconstitutional. Roosevelt said the decision was an example of the court using the Constitution as a means of thwarting the will of the people, rather than establishing the absolute right of people to rule themselves.

In 1912, Roosevelt challenged Taft for the Republican nomination and lost. He then formed the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party and ran a third party campaign, with a platform that included women’s suffrage and an eight-hour workday. Roosevelt ended up beating Taft — 27% to 23% of the popular vote — but both lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who received 42%.

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By 1918, the Bull Moose party had all but evaporated.

But the influence of Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” remains. Many of the reforms proposed by the Bull Moose party eventually became part of everyday American life — a standard 40-hour work week, through the Fair Labor Standards Act, for example, and the right of women to vote, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Other changes that Roosevelt outlined in the New Nationalism, such as economic equality and limiting the influence of corporate influence in politics, continue to elude us.

In 2011, President Barack Obama came to Osawatomie to deliver a speech in which he talked about a “make or break” moment for the American middle class. The financial downturn and years of ideological gridlock, he said, had battered working families.

Like Roosevelt, Obama was using our nation’s collective memory to make a point about the choices that were before us — and to set the tone for his reelection campaign. As America’s first Black president, it was appropriate that he came to where the fight over slavery began. Obama delivered his remarks in the local high school gym festooned with patriotic bunting, and he stressed the consequences of economic inequality.

“Inequality also distorts our democracy,” Obama said. “It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder.”

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The fact that Obama, a Democrat, would come to deep-red Kansas to deliver an important address on the economy left some bewildered, but not those who knew the history of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 address.

Looking back at Obama’s speech from a distance of 13 years, what strikes me now is its civility. Although Miami County would vote for Mitt Romney over Obama by a margin of more than two to one in 2012, Obama was welcomed by the community. I know, because I was in Osawatomie that day and, despite political differences, observed none of the meanness that marks so much of politics today.

Obama’s visit to Osawatomie may not have had the impact he had hoped for, but it was another stone in the foundation of democracy. These stones are not the domain of one party or another — as Roosevelt demonstrated — but belong to all of us. We build on the civic materials that have been left to us by those who have gone before. Roosevelt died in 1919, but some of his goals of were achieved by his distant cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the New Deal of the 1930s.

While it is easy to become discouraged by the stream of depressing political headlines that assault us daily, it’s important to recognize that American democracy is a long game. The vision that Theodore Roosevelt articulated in 1910 is undimmed by time. The call for economic equality that Obama made in 2011 is even more important today.

We don’t know who will prevail in our current political strife, but if we are to go forward — if we are to make progress on critical issues that have plagued us for more than a century — then we must recognize that our challenges will not be met in a single day, a single election, or perhaps not in a single lifetime. But that should not dissuade us from the important work of building foundations — or leaving blueprints — for generations yet to come.

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Max McCoy is an award-winning author and journalist. Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.



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New regulations encourage Kansas anglers to seek blue catfish

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New regulations encourage Kansas anglers to seek blue catfish


PRATT, Kan. (KCTV) – New regulations have been introduced to encourage Kansas anglers to seek out blue catfish at certain reservoirs.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks has announced that Commissioners approved a new regulation for blue catfish caught in the following reservoirs:

  • Clinton – Douglas County
  • El Dorado – Butler County
  • Elk City – Montgomery County
  • Glen Elder – Mitchell County
  • John Redmond – Coffey County
  • Melvern – Osage County

Commissioners indicated that the new regulation, which has already taken effect, includes a creel limit of 10 blue catfish per day with no more than one fish that measures 30 inches or longer.

State wildlife officials noted that blue catfish are popular among Kansas anglers as the interest in the species continues to grow. They can reach large sizes which provide big fish opportunities previously unavailable in Kansas. Smaller sizes of blue catfish are popular table fare.

According to park officials, most of the reservoirs in Kansas that do contain blue catfish were stocked within the last two decades which makes the species relatively new to state fisheries.

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“Many of our early blue catfish populations were initially protected with very restrictive harvest regulations to allow the stocked fish to mature and naturally reproduce,” said Craig Johnson, KDWP El Dorado District Fisheries Biologist. “Now that blue catfish numbers are being maintained at several lakes through natural recruitment instead of supplemental stocking, we can relax the regulations and anglers can benefit by harvesting more fish from these productive populations.”

Research has found that reservoirs with lower population densities show the best growth rates for the species which equals bigger fish available to anglers. A blue catfish can reach up to 30 inches in between 8 and 14 years which makes older fish quite valuable. The new regulation encourages anglers to take the bait to provide desired densities in state waters.

Meanwhile, KDWP indicated that those who fish for blue catfish should focus on smaller fish – less than 30 inches – especially between 18 and 28 inches, and release the larger fish to fight again.

“For the 10 blue catfish per day with one over 30 inches limit as well as protected slot length limits for blue catfish to meet the objective of improving fish size structure, anglers need to harvest legal length fish,” said Johnson. “Releasing the smaller blues with the idea that they’ll grow larger isn’t the best approach in lakes with limits encouraging harvest. Take your blues home, they make for a great fish fry, and you’ll know you’re helping improve the fishery.”

For more information on fishing in the Sunflower State, click HERE.

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