An attorney for the Kansas paper that was raided by police claimed data was cloned from their computers before a court-ordered return of the devices.
The newspaper’s lawyer, Bernie Rhodes, accused the county of cloning information off at least one computer after discovering a USB drive missing from the trove of returned material.
“It further appears that during – or after – the raid someone used this driver to copy or clone data from one or more computers owned by the Record,” Rhodes wrote in a letter to the county, threatening contempt of court.
“This access is illegal. It also clearly violates the District Court’s August 16, 2023, order.”
Rhodes submitted the letter to Marion County Counselor Bradley Jantz Thursday, after the newspaper discovered one of its seized items, the USB drive, had not been returned. The attorney demanded the device be given back, as Judge Ben Sexton previously ordered the evidence to be “released and returned” to the rightful owners, according to KWCH.
The attorney said he discovered the missing item because the inventory list that was filed with the court and the list his forensic expert was given didn’t match. The second list, which was given to the forensic expert after the search warrant was pulled, had the USB drive listed.
“No one has been able to explain to me yet, despite the publicity, despite my threat of contempt, despite the threat we’re having to go back to get a second court order, why there are two lists,” Rhodes said, according to KWCH.
“The whole point of an inventory list is to maintain what we call a chain of custody so that it’s clear what was taken, so that can be used in court later. Without a valid chain of custody, all of it is just garbage,” he continued. “The fact that we have two different versions of the same inventory, signed apparently by the same officer, on the same date, using the same form, with the same official number on it, it’s garbage.”
“While the apparent alteration of the inventory list raises serious questions, what is clear is that item 9 on the inventory posted by the Court has not been “released and returned,” as the Court ordered,” Rhodes wrote in the letter.
The attorney threatened to hold the sheriff in contempt of court if the county did not return the USB drive. Jantz later returned the flash drive, gave him the copied data, and said all copies would be destroyed, KWCH reported.
As of Saturday, the Marion County Record reported, a deal between the county attorney and Rhodes had not yet been signed.
The newspaper plans to sue the chief, which Rhodes said is their “one choice.”
“We’re going to have to sue the chief, we’re going to have to sue the police department, and we’re going to have to sue the city of Marion to find out the truth.”
The Record was raided on Aug. 11, with police seizing their computers, cellphones, and reporting materials amid a dispute with a local businesswoman.
Newspaper owner Eric Meyer called the raid’s timing “suspicious” as he discovered the probable cause affidavit was filed three days after the searches were conducted.
He also blamed the raid for the death the following day of his 98-year-old mother, the co-owner of the paper.