The Marion County Record, a newspaper in Kansas that the police raided last week, is getting its equipment back from local law enforcement, the county’s top prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Joel Ensey, the Marion County attorney, said in a statement that there was insufficient evidence to justify the search of The Marion County Record and seizure of its journalists’ equipment.
“As a result, I have submitted a proposed order asking the court to release the evidence seized,” he said. “I have asked local law enforcement to return the material seized to the owners of the property.”
The police and county sheriff’s deputies raided the newspaper’s office, the home of its owner and editor and the home of a city councilwoman on Friday — collecting computers, cellphones and other materials. It is extremely rare for law enforcement authorities in the United States to search and seize the tools to produce journalism.
The searches were part of an investigation into how The Record obtained and handled a document containing information about a local restaurateur — and whether the restaurant owner’s privacy was violated in the process.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, an agency that aids law enforcement statewide, said in a statement that the investigation would continue.
The search generated blowback from First Amendment experts, who condemned the raid and urged local law enforcement officials to return the journalists’ equipment.
Joann Meyer, a co-owner of the paper, died on Saturday. Her son, Eric Meyer, the newspaper’s publisher, said that the coroner had concluded that the stress of the searches was a contributing factor in her death.
Bernard J. Rhodes, a lawyer who represents The Record, called the county’s decision to withdraw its search warrant and return the seized items “a promising first step.”
“However, it does nothing to recompense the paper for the violation of its First Amendment rights when the search was conducted,” he added, “and most regrettably, does not return Joann Meyer.”
Mr. Rhodes said that a forensic expert would examine the property that had been seized by investigators. He added that he was assured that the equipment had not been combed through by investigators but said he wanted to make sure.
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