Federal lawsuit filed against Kansas police chief who raided local newspaper

Police raided a smalltown newspaper in Kansas over fears it was about to report the police chief's alleged sex-pest past and a politically-connected restauranteur's drunk-driving conviction. This hamfisted attack on the press resulted in the newspaper's elderly co-owner dying of shock hours later, widespread condemnation and everyone in the world finding out about the warrant-approving judge's own history of DUI arrests. And now it's earned the chief a federal lawsuit.

Deb Gruver believes Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody violated her constitutional rights when he abruptly snatched her personal cellphone out of her hands during a search where officers also seized computers from the Marion County Record's office, according to the lawsuit. That Aug. 11 search and two others conducted at the homes of the newspaper's publisher and a City Council member have thrust the town into the center of a debate over the press protections in the First Amendment.

Cody didn't immediately respond to an email or text message from The Associated Press on Wednesday seeking comment. He has said little publicly since the raids other than posting a defense of them on the police department's Facebook page. In court documents he filed to get the search warrants, he argued that he had probable cause to believe the newspaper and City Council member Ruth Herbel, whose home was also raided, had violated state laws against identity theft or computer crimes.

Just getting started trying things in this small town.