An employee accused of stealing drugs from the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula pleaded not guilty to nine charges in Missoula County District Court on Tuesday morning.
Appearing before District Court Judge Karen Townsend, Derek Thrush, who worked as a forensic scientist at the lab, entered his pleas to three felony counts of drug possession, three misdemeanors for theft and three for official misconduct.
In charging documents filed in February, Missoula County Attorney's Office prosecutors said Thrush's brother-in-law told Missoula police that he was concerned Thrush was using methamphetamine that he was taking from the lab.
Additionally, the brother-in-law told a detective that Thrush had confessed to stealing meth from the lab.
On Feb. 14, a Missoula detective and investigator from the Montana Department of Justice spoke to Thrush, and he allegedly admitted to using meth he had taken from the lab, according to court records
Thrush allegedly told the investigators that the drug testing process used at the lab occasionally does not use the entire sample and that he would take small amounts of the leftover meth, instead of destroying it per the lab policy.
While doing an inventory of the facility, two supervisors at the crime lab told investigators they found a vial of meth in a drawer of a desk that belonged to Thrush. The desk was not in the same place drug testing takes place and the supervisors said no drug evidence should have been there.
In a February letter the Forensics Services Division, which runs the crime lab, said it was working to find out if any cases had been affected as a result of Thrush's actions.
Thrush remains released on his own recognizance and his next scheduled court hearing is May 1.