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Former Professor Wins Legal Victory in Drug Case

MARYVILLE, Mo. ― A northwest Missouri prosecutor said he will appeal a judge’s ruling that quashed a search warrant for a former university professor’s home where a marijuana-growing operation was found last year after the educator posted insensitive remarks on Facebook.

Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice this week filed a notice that he would appeal Circuit Judge Roger Prokes’ July 7 ruling invalidating the search warrant and ordering evidence seized in September from Matthew Rouch’s home ― including several marijuana plants, grow lights, plant food and baggies of processed pot ― be suppressed.

“I’m mad as hell about the decision and I am going to appeal it,” Rice told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Rouch was a professor in Northwest Missouri State’s Communication Department when he responded to a colleague’s Aug. 28, 2013, Facebook post with a quip that he’s always optimistic at the beginning of a semester. However, he wrote, “By October, I’ll be wanting to get up to the top of the bell tower with a high powered rifle with a good scope, and probably a gatling gun as well.” The entire post has since been removed.

A week later, campus safety director Clarence Green swore out an affidavit for a search warrant on Rouch’s home seeking “a rifle with a scope, a gatling gun, or other firearms capable of lethal use.”

In his ruling, Prokes said Green knew Rouch’s comment was just a poor attempt at humor but didn’t include that in his search warrant request. Had the context of the comment been made clear, Prokes wrote, the search warrant would not likely have been issued.

The only weapon found at Rouch’s home was a pellet gun, but investigators discovered what they described as a significant pot-growing operation and arrested the 58-year-old for producing and possessing marijuana.

Rice said Green was told about the Facebook post in early September by a reporter for the university’s student newspaper, the Northwest Missourian, and that investigators quickly interviewed Rouch to see if he was serious.

On Sept. 5, a day after Rouch was interviewed, he told a colleague he had a bomb, which Rice said had to be taken seriously. The search warrant was issued and executed the next day.

“We had a person making multiple comments, what am I supposed to do?” Rice said. “What if the guy was off his rocker and did shoot someone? How do I explain that?”

Prokes noted that the bomb comment was to a close colleague of Rouch’s who was ribbing him about the investigation.

Rouch’s attorney, Robert Sundell of Maryville, said his client is happy with Prokes’ ruling.

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