Gallatin County attorneys issued arrest warrants for nine MSU students on charges of drug distribution on March 31 in response to investigations conducted by the Missouri River Drug Task Force (MRDTF).
On the morning of April 2, Tyler Easter, Greyson Grinde, Hunter Jones, James Henry Morgan, Jacob Mundt, Christian Reinker, Caleb Weill and Weston Wicks were arrested and taken into custody on $75,000 warrants, and Riely Heppner was taken into custody on a $20,000 warrant.
Documents filed by Deputy Gallatin County Attorney Erin Murphy reveal that a confidential informant contacted a MRDTF detective to tell him they planned to purchase butane hash oil (BHO, a form of cannabis obtained from marijuana plants through solvent extraction) from Tyler Easter at an off-campus apartment he shared with Wicks.
With the informant’s help, detectives determined Easter and Wicks were buying and distributing BHO and LSD. After speaking with the two of them, detectives obtained a search warrant and discovered evidence including BHO, marijuana, over $6,000 in cash and a kit used to grow psychedelic mushrooms.
Grinde, Jones, Morgan, Mundt and Reinker, all residents of Roskie Hall, were issued warrants for selling illegal drugs to a confidential informant both on and off campus. Weill, another resident of Roskie, was found in possession of over 400 grams of marijuana and $2,400 in cash when his room was searched after offering to sell to a MRTDF informant.
Heppner was found in possession of marijuana after he was pulled over while driving under the influence of alcohol on Feb. 14.
The possession, manufacture and distribution of drugs are serious violations of MSU’s code of conduct, and the actions of students are under review by the Office of the Dean of Students.
“Anytime a student has been charged with a felony, their actions are subject to the university’s conduct code,” Dean of Students Matt Caires said. “All nine students involved in these incidents are subject to the university’s conduct process, and we are working through that process as we speak.”
In response to the incident, MSU Police Chief Robert Putzke commented that while the situation was disappointing, it was not surprising: “Drugs, like it or not, are a part of our society at all levels. There’s not a university in the nation that doesn’t have people using illegal drugs.”
Putzke continued, “What we saw last week was really no different than what happens all across the nation; I wish it would not happen, but it is going to happen, and when it happens law enforcement is going to respond.”
Caires expressed concern over students’ inadequate knowledge of university expectations. He hopes that in the future students will have a better understanding of the MSU code of conduct and the impacts their actions could have on their academic future.
“We need to be much clearer to students in defining what the potential outcomes are when they violate the conduct code. I think we can do a better job at this,” Caires said. “Students will see much clearer expectations next fall that are publicized, communicated and talked about during the first few weeks of school.”
Caires continued to discuss the necessity of informing students: “One of the things we’ve discovered this past year when we updated the conduct code is that the students are generally unaware of what happens when they commit violations such as possessing or distributing illegal drugs.”
He emphasized the importance of students knowing the code of conduct, “We want students to understand what the realities are when they violate the conduct, and that one of those realities could be removal from campus,” Caires said.
Referencing the success of the VOICE Center in its educational efforts to prevent sexual violence, Caires believes a similar model could be used to help students understand university student code of conduct. Caires hopes that by working in conjunction with various campus organizations, such as residence life and student health services, MSU will create a team that will clearly define and communicate expectations to students, and limit further incidents in the future.
“Sometimes young people make wrong choices. It doesn’t mean they are bad people, but it does mean they need to learn an important lesson in order to adhere to established conduct expectations in the future. I am hoping we do not have to teach this lesson to anyone else this spring or beyond,” Caires said.