MARION COUNTY, Kan. — The feud between the Marion County Record newspaper and the Marion County Police continues as a letter from the paper’s attorney demands police not touch any of the electronic equipment or other records officers confiscated.
In a letter sent to Chief of Marion Police Gideon Cody, attorney Bernard Rhodes writes that the raid “violated state law, federal law and the publisher’s first, fourth, fifth, and fourteenth amendment rights.”
Rhodes continues saying the Chief of Police personally requested the search warrant, saying he had probable cause to believe the newspaper employees were committing identity theft and using electronic equipment to do it.
The letter ends, “Your personal decision to treat the local newspaper as a drug cartel or a street gang offends the constitutional protections the founding fathers gave the free press.”
With accusations flying in both directions in this case, KAKE senior reporter Pilar Pedraza spoke with legal experts to find answers to questions many viewers had about what the law says.
“Probable cause is much less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, much less than clear and convincing evidence,” defense attorney Dan Monnat said.
Monnat says the bar for how much probable cause is needed to get a search warrant is very low, less than a 50/50 chance of finding something incriminating.
Attorney Max Kautsch, who specializes in media law for the Kansas Press Association, says it’s what the officers were searching for that he believes makes this search a violation of federal law; identity theft and using a computer to do it.
“The federal law provides that a search warrant would only be permissible if some very serious personal crime, you know, a murder or something like that is taking place,” Kautsch said.
Monnat says there are several laws, starting with the constitution, that require search warrants be very specific.
“In the digital age, when you say something like ‘go to this place and search every communication device in the place, every phone, every computer, every iPad,’ again, you get closer to a general warrant,” Monnat said.
The affidavit has been officially requested by KAKE, but our attorney says whether or not we get it is completely up to the district court judge, and there is no provision for an appeal under Kansas law.
See full interview at KAKE.com