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Forced to rewrite stories and reproduce ads from scratch

A police raid that drew national attention to a small Kansas newspaper over threats to press freedoms wasn’t supported by evidence, a prosecutor said Wednesday, as the paper’s staff scrambled to print its first weekly edition since their cellphones and computers were seized.

Forced to rewrite stories and reproduce ads from scratch, the four-person newsroom toiled overnight to print Wednesday’s edition, with a defiant front-page headline that read: “SEIZED … but not silenced.” Under the 2-inch-tall (5-centimeter) typeface, they published stories on the raid and the influx of support the weekly newspaper has since received.

On Wednesday, Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey said his review of police seizures from the Marion County Record offices and the publisher’s home found “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,” Ensey said in a news release.

But in a statement released along with the county attorney’s, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation said it still is examining whether the newspaper violated state laws. A warrant for the raid, signed by a local judge, suggested the raid was over whether the paper improperly used a local restaurant owner’s personal information to access her state driving record online. Editor and Publisher Eric Meyer has said the paper did nothing illegal.

In Topeka, Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican who oversees the KBI, said its “principal interest” remains the computer access allegations. He told reporters he didn’t understand the KBI’s role to include “an evaluation of constitutional claims about the raid.”

The KBI said it would continue its work without examining any evidence seized last Friday. Once the state investigators finish, Kobach said, the county attorney will decide whether to prosecute.

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