Former Marion police chief had ‘pizza party’ after raid, turned off body cam, new lawsuit says

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TOPEKA — Former Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody did not remember the Miranda warning when he forced Marion County Record newspaper staff out into the nearly 100-degree heat during a raid that drew international condemnation. 

Cody “couldn’t recall the wording of the warning” when he attempted to interrogate Record reporter Phyllis Zorn, according to a new federal lawsuit. He had to get a printed copy of the Miranda warning from one of his colleagues to continue interrogations of reporter Deb Gruver, but he “realized he did not have his reading glasses with him and he could not read the card.”

Cody then had one of his officers read Gruver the warning. 

Zorn filed the second federal lawsuit in the case Tuesday. She asks for $950,000 to be awarded and alleges constitutional violations during the raid.

Zorn’s seizure disorder has been exacerbated by the stress of the raid, according to the lawsuit. 

“Prior to the raid, her seizures were under good medical control and she had gone as long as five years without a seizure,” the lawsuit reads. “The seizures have been debilitating and have led to extreme depression and anxiety.” 

Defendants in the case include the city of Marion, Mayor David Mayfield, Cody, interim Police Chief Zach Hudlin, the Marion County Commission, Marion County Sheriff Jeff Soyez and sheriff’s office investigator Aaron Christner.

Cody initiated the unprecedented Aug. 11 rural newspaper raid under the pretense that Zorn committed identity theft when she accessed public records through the Kansas Department of Revenue database. The agency later said that was a legal way for reporters to access information. 

During the raid, Cody, along with four police officers and two sheriff’s deputies, took cell phones and other electronic devices from the newsroom. Officers also searched Marion County Record publisher Eric Meyer’s home, along with the residence of a city councilwoman. Meyer’s 98-year-old mother, Joan, the newspaper’s co-owner, died a day after the raid. The stress of the raid is believed to have been a factor in her death. 

Gruver, a veteran Record reporter, filed a federal lawsuit in August for emotional and physical injury during the raid. 

Though the Record didn’t publish the information before the raid, Gruver had compiled allegations made against Cody by his former colleagues with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department. According to the reporting, Cody left Kansas City under the threat of demotion, following accusations of offensive behavior and creating a hostile work environment. 


Three sources told the Record that Cody had driven over a dead body at a crime scene, Zorn’s lawsuit alleges. Her lawsuit adds that Cody had attempted to persuade her into leaving the paper and starting her own news outlet – with investment from him – after learning about the Record’s reporting. 

“The plaintiff laughed off the suggestion, not understanding the depth of his anger at the Record. When Mrs. Zorn disclaimed any interest in his proposal, she was moved to Cody’s enemy list,” the lawsuit reads. 

Other portions of the lawsuit detail officers’ body camera footage from the raid, including footage of officers searching for records about Cody. 

The lawsuit describes the chief rummaging through Gruver’s desk drawer and rifling through her files on him. Captured audio depicts Cody stating that he is hungry and that the officers should “just take them all” in reference to the Record’s computers and equipment, so they could “get the f*** out of here.” 

Other footage includes Cody using the bathroom at Casey’s General Store between raiding homes.

“While Chief Cody did not turn off his body camera while relieving himself, he apparently chose to turn it off while he reviewed Gruver’s file on him, for the Marion Police Department did not produce any body camera footage from Cody of him looking through Gruver’s file on him,” the lawsuit reads. 

After finishing the raid, Cody had a “pizza party” with the county sheriff to debrief him, according to the lawsuit.

Cody told Soyez that it “made his day” to yank Gruver’s phone out of her hand during the raid. Soyez then told him that his body camera was still on, and Cody had Hudlin turn it off, saying he couldn’t “get this damn thing to turn off,” the lawsuit states. 

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Kansas prosecutor who framed innocent man surrenders law license, will soon be disbarred

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Terra Morehead, who retired as a federal prosecutor last August, has agreed to turn over her law license as part of an agreement with a Kansas disciplinary board. As a Wyandotte County prosecutor in the 1990s, Morehead helped KCKPD Detective Roger Golubski frame an innocent man who spent 23 years in prison.


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