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State v. Rouch

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District

December 16, 2014

STATE OF MISSOURI, Appellant,
v.
MATTHEW S. ROUCH, Respondent

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF NODAWAY COUNTY, MISSOURI. The Honorable Roger M. Prokes, Judge.

For Appellant: Robert L. Rice.

For Respondent: Robert E. Sundell.

Before Special Division: Zel Fischer, Special Judge Presiding, Joseph M. Ellis, Judge and Victor C. Howard, Judge. All concur.

OPINION

Joseph M. Ellis, Judge.

Page 816

The State of Missouri brings this interlocutory appeal challenging an order issued in the Circuit Court of Nodaway County granting Matthew Rouch's motion to suppress evidence discovered and seized as a result of the execution of a warrant to

Page 817

search his home. For the following reasons, the trial court's ruling is affirmed.

On September 3, 2013, Northwest Missouri State University Police Chief Clarence Green, Jr. was interviewed over the telephone by a student reporter for a story for the Northwest Missourian newspaper. During the course of that interview, the reporter claimed that a faculty member had indicated in a Facebook post that he would climb up in the bell tower on campus and shoot students. Chief Green asked the reporter for the name of the faculty member and a copy of the reporter's screenshot printout of the Facebook post but the reporter refused to provide them. The following day, Chief Green applied for and received a warrant to search the office and file storage area of the Northwest Missourian for evidence related to the Facebook post.

Upon executing that warrant, Chief Green seized a printout of a Facebook post by Rouch, who was a professor in the communications department, which stated:

But, yes. That's the beginning of the semester. I'm always optimistic. 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.

Chief Green then contacted and questioned Rouch about the Facebook post. Rouch admitted making the post and stated that it was a sarcastic, flippant comment meant as a humorous response to statements made by a colleague.[1] When asked if he owned any weapons, Rouch said that he had a pellet gun at home. When interviewed, the colleague to whom Rouch had made the statement indicated that she thought Rouch's statement was in bad taste but that it was meant as a joke.

The following day, an administrator called Chief Green and told him that a professor, Dr. Walker, had heard Rouch say something about bringing a bomb on campus. When questioned by Chief Green, Dr. Walker said he had overheard Rouch make a comment like: " Yesterday they thought it was a gun. Today I've brought a bomb." Chief Green had Rouch taken into custody. When questioned, Rouch admitted making the comments, which he again maintained were flippant and meant as a sarcastic joke. After questioning Rouch, Chief Green placed Rouch under a 24-hour investigative hold for making terroristic threats. The campus building Rouch had been in was searched for a bomb but none was found. All of Rouch's co-workers and colleagues that were interviewed by Chief Green about Rouch's comments indicated their belief that the comments were made flippantly and meant to be jokes.

Page 818

After interviewing Rouch and his colleagues, Chief Green contacted the prosecuting attorney to seek a warrant to search Rouch's home for firearms. The Complaint for Search Warrant, filed by the county prosecuting attorney, asked for a warrant to search Rouch's home for " a rifle with a scope, a gatling gun, or other firearms capable of lethal use," which were generically said to be " evidence of a criminal offense." Similarly, in the affidavit in support of the warrant complaint, Chief Green asked the court to issue a warrant to search Rouch's home for " a rifle ...


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