Will big pot bust go up in smoke?

Kurt Steffen


Dorchester County investigators smelled the tang of marijuana in the air soon after they hopped the gate of a former state trooper's rural Ridgeville property in January 2010.

The weed's smell drifted from a portable container near a shed where a sheriff's deputy heard the hum of indoor lights. Hoses snaked from the container to a nearby pond. Electrical wires ran between the shed and a smaller out-building.

These observations helped deputies uncover what prosecutors describe as an elaborate and illicit indoor growing operation.

But the question is: Should investigators have been there in the first place?

The attorney for former Highway Patrolman Kurt Steffen wants a judge to consider tossing out the evidence against him, alleging that it resulted from investigators trespassing on his property without a warrant, in violation of Steffen's constitutional rights.

A hearing on that motion, filed by Public Defender Mary Gordon Baker, is scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

A ruling in Steffen's favor could hurt the government's efforts to tie the 30-year-old former trooper to some 315 pot plants seized on his land. Authorities say Steffen, who resigned from the Highway Patrol in December 2009, was part of a ring that conspired to distribute at least 1,000 pot plants in the Charleston area.