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MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A prosecutor is seeking another court hearing in a case against a former Northwest Missouri State University professor who was arrested on drug charges after he posted insensitive remarks on Facebook.
Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice said Tuesday he is asking for either a second hearing before the full Missouri Court of Appeals or that the case against former professor Matt Rouch be transferred to the Missouri Supreme Court. He said he believes the "law and facts" were "misinterpreted" in this case.
Rouch was charged in September 2013 with possessing and producing marijuana, both felonies. At the time, he was a professor in NMSU's communications department.
His trouble began a month earlier when he posted on Facebook that he was always optimistic at the beginning of a semester but come October would "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."
He told university officials it was a sarcastic joke and the only weapon he owned was pellet gun. But Rouch was put on investigative hold that September when a colleague overhead him tell someone he had a bomb. Again, Rouch claimed the comment was a joke.
On Sept. 6, 2013, university police executed a search warrant at Rouch's home seeking "a rifle with a scope, a gatling gun, or other firearms capable of lethal use."
They found the pellet gun and several marijuana plants, grow lights, plant food and baggies of processed pot. That evidence, which Rice said is crucial to the prosecution, was quashed by the 4th District Circuit Court, and the ruling was upheld Dec. 16 by a three-judge Missouri Appeals Court panel.
Rice said he expects an answer to his motion in about 30 days. If he is unsuccessful, Rice will decide whether to dismiss the case or apply for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, although he acknowledged it is unlikely the high court would hear the case, The Maryville Daily Forum reported (http://bit.ly/1wAZBAC ).
Circuit Judge Roger Prokes ruled in July that the search warrant was improperly obtained. He and the appeals court found that police knew while they were seeking the warrant that Rouch's comments were likely not serious threats and did not create a reasonable belief that he had done anything illegal.
Rouch's attorney, Robert Sundell, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Rouch has resigned from his university position.
Information from: Maryville Daily Forum, http://www.maryvilledailyforum.com
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