(CNN) — After days of national controversy over the raid of a small town’s newspaper office and the publisher’s home, the items seized will be returned, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday.
An attorney for the Marion County Record, Bernie Rhodes, told CNN the local prosecutor has agreed to withdraw a search warrant executed on the newspaper Friday and will return all seized items, answering demands of press freedom advocates who sharply condemned the police action.
The paper’s co-owner and publisher, Eric Meyer, has said he believes Friday’s raid in Marion – about 60 miles north of Wichita – was prompted by a story published Wednesday about a local business owner. But authorities said they were investigating what they called “identity theft” in a search warrant.
Computers, cell phones and other materials were seized during the raid at the Marion County Record, Meyer confirmed to CNN.
Marion County prosecutor Joel Ensey released a statement explaining why he has asked for the seized items to be returned.
“On Monday, August 14, 2023, I reviewed in detail the warrant applications made Friday, August 11, 2023 to search various locations in Marion County including the office of the Marion County Record,” Ensey said.
“The affidavits, which I am asking the court to release, established probable cause to believe that an employee of the newspaper may have committed … Unlawful Acts Concerning Computers. Upon further review however, I have come to the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists to establish a legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized. As a result, I have submitted a proposed order asking the court to release the evidence seized. I have asked local law enforcement to return the material seized to the owners of the property.”
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation plans to continue its investigation “independently,” it said in the statement.
“We will work with the Marion County Record, or their representative, to coordinate the prompt return of all seized items,” KBI spokesperson Melissa Underwood wrote. “Once our investigation concludes we will present findings to the Marion County Attorney for review.”
(Copyright (c) 2023 CNN. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)