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Updated at 7:40 a.m. Tuesday

Cody accused of telling Newell to destroy evidence

Staff writer

A state investigation of the Aug. 11 raid on the Marion County Record apparently has broadened to include whether Police Chief Gideon Cody urged restaurant owner Kari Newell to destroy evidence of text messages the two exchanged before the raid.

Partly in response to this and to what she said were efforts by Cody to continue his aborted investigation and to publish a book about it, Newell told the Record on Friday that she had joined a chorus of others calling for the City of Marion to suspend Cody pending an investigation of his actions.

Kansas City TV station KSHB’s investigative team reported Thursday that Newell said Cody had asked her to delete texts between the two after rumors of a possible relationship between them surfaced.

Newell insisted to KSHB that the relationship was platonic and that the chief didn’t want people drawing wrong conclusions.

“I kind of agreed,” Newell was quoted as saying, “so I did delete those messages against my better judgment and immediately regretted it.”

A Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent earlier acknowledged to the Record that the main areas of his portion of an investigation of the incident were whether Cody had asked for evidence of conversations to be destroyed and whether Cody had exceeded authority granted to him in search warrants that later were deemed improper.

Cody has contended publicly that the raid came after Newell complained to him, but Newell confirmed to both KSHB and the Record that she had not gone to the police. Cody, she said, went to her, telling her, “We believe you’ve been the victim of a crime.”

Newell told the Record that the first indication she had of anyone knowing that she had been driving illegally for more than a decade came not from Cody but from Marion City Council member Zach Collett.

She told the Record that first Collett, then Cody, called her and that she then called Mayor David Mayfield, who said she contended that the newspaper and Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel were conspiring to block a catering liquor license Newell was seeking.

In fact, the Record was not aware of Newell’s request for endorsement of a catering license until after it had notified Cody and Sheriff Jeff Soyez that a source had provided the newspaper a copy of a document about her driver's license along with an allegation that local officers were aware Newell had no license but were ignoring the situation.

For her part, Herbel never stated that she was opposed to Newell’s license request, only that she thought police should investigate whether a license legally could be granted.

Herbel was aware of the document because initial messages about it appeared on public Facebook pages.

Newell’s former friend, Pam Maag, provided the document to the Record via private message. Herbel then asked Maag for a copy and had no further discussions with the Record .

Despite her having disclosed all of this, including the document, in a letter to City Administrator Brogan Jones, a copy of which was included in Cody's application for a warrant to search Newell's home, Cody persisted in applying for the warrant, and Magistrate Judge Laura Viar approved it.

How Collett became aware of the situation is unclear. After receiving Herbel’s note, Jones sent an email to Mayfield stating that he thought city police should stay out of the matter and let the state investigate it since the state is the agency that grants licenses.

There is no indication that the message was sent to Collett. Under the Kansas Open Records Act, the Record has requested copies of all communications among city council members regarding the matter but has been told it might be weeks before the city would comply with the request.

Newell currently possesses no liquor license and, according to her, is ineligible to obtain one until after her divorce from Ryan Newell, whom she says faces a felony conviction for driving under the influence, which under state rules would disqualify her.

Ryan Newell has disputed his estranged wife's claim, admitting that he was charged with driving under the influence in May in Harvey County but providing documentation indicating it was a misdemeanor, not felony, charge and stating that he is seeking a diversion agreement in the case.

The warrant to search Herbel’s home did not match Cody’s application. The warrant accuses Herbel of misconduct in office, a crime not alleged in the warrant application.

Newell told the Record that, during conversations with her before the raid, Mayfield had stated that the only way he could get Herbel out of office was if she were convicted of a crime.

He earlier was involved in an unsuccessful effort to gather enough petition signatures to force Herbel to face a recall election.

KSHB reported that Newell provided its reporters copies of additional text messages she and Cody exchanged this week.

“If attorneys or KBI go digging and see I deleted the texts as you asked me to, will I get in trouble?" Newell wrote in one of the messages.

Cody’s reply, according to Newell’s screenshots, was: “Our phones are moot. I didn’t want them to get the wrong impression because you send me a smile emoji. I know you were just being kind. But I don’t trust anyone not making a big deal from a smile emoji.”

Newell earlier told the Record that Cody had engaged in what she regarded as “typical alpha male” flirtatious talk with her.

KBI has declined to comment on the case.

“I unfortunately cannot answer specific questions about the case," spokesman Melissa Underwood told KSHB. "I can tell you we are conducting a thorough investigation into what occurred.”

An attorney representing the City of Marion’s insurance company was asked by KSHB about Newell's claim that the chief had asked her to delete text messages.

In an email, the lawyer, Jennifer Hill of the Wichita law firm McDonald Tinker, said: “I am investigating it myself.”

Last modified Oct. 4, 2023

 

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