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9 months later, raid probe still incomplete

Staff writer

A report, originally promised by Tuesday, on the Aug. 11 raid of the Marion County Record still is incomplete.

Kansas Bureau of Investigation spokesman Melissa Underwood said at the beginning of the month that Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents were nearly finished with the report.

But Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, one of two special prosecutors who will review the findings, said Monday that CBI still was awaiting some documents.

“The volume of documents generated by the investigation already appears to run to nearly 10,000 pages,” Bennett said. “I will review the full investigation with the other prosecutor who agreed to take part in this review. When that review is complete, our findings will be made public.”

The other prosecutor, Riley County attorney Barry Wilkerson, asked to comment, forwarded an earlier email Bennett had sent to another reporter.

“I would standby Marc’s communication,” Wilkerson said.

In his email, Bennett said:

“Earlier this month, we traveled to Denver where we spent the day receiving a detailed synopsis of the investigation conducted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

“We were also provided digital copies of the investigative reports.

“Since that time, the assigned CBI agent has received additional investigative documents; which will be assessed, and then forwarded to our attention. The volume of documents generated by the investigation already appears to run to nearly 10,000 pages.

“Mr. Wilkerson and I are in the process of reviewing the full investigation. When that review is complete, our findings will be made public.

“We do not plan to make any additional comments until the final assessment is complete.”

Kansas Reflector editor Sherman Smith told the Record that when he contacted CBI to ask about the status of the investigation, he was told that Bennett and Wilkerson had asked investigators to take additional steps.

At issue is a raid Aug. 11 at the Record newsroom and the homes of its owner and Marion’s then-vice mayor.

The raids were based on search warrants later withdrawn as insufficient.

They alleged that the newspaper had committed identity theft by verifying the legitimacy of a document supplied by a source.

Record editor Eric Meyer said Tuesday that the wait for answers had been difficult.

“Our stress level has been beyond high since the raid,” Meyer said. “It certainly hasn’t helped that almost nine months later, we still haven’t been cleared.

“We remain confident we will be. After all, the agency that created the document we verified has publicly stated that it was an open record, readily available to all members of the public. And, as we told police before the raid, we had no intention of doing anything with it.

“Still, having a sword hovering over your head for three-quarters of a year is not something I would wish on anyone — even the people who illegally raided us.”

Meyer wondered about the reasons for the delay.

“If the delay has been attributable to ferreting out whether the raid was the result of a conspiracy among elected officials to weaponize law enforcement against political enemies, the delay is at least tolerable,” he said. “If, on the other hand, it has been part of an attempt to justify illegality against us and protect the city, county, and others from legal liability for actions of its employees and officials, it is an awfully expensive and ill-conceived whitewash of a grievous abuse of power.”

CBI agents questioned Record employees and others in December, but no agents have contacted the Record since.

“We are aware, on the other hand, that it attempted to obtain multiple documents from the City of Marion as recently as March 13,” Meyer said.

Last modified May 2, 2024

 

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