- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - An Auburn University lab technician has been charged with selling a gallon of the “date rape” drug GHB, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Authorities arrested 64-year-old Stephen Howard at his home in Auburn on Friday. U.S. Attorney George Beck said Howard sold a controlled substance to an uncover agent this month.

If convicted, Howard faces up to 20 years in prison for distribution of a controlled substance and 32 years on charges of possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime.

“This is a serious matter,” Beck said. “So many people want to laugh about these types of drugs. They do not stop to think about the consequences.”

Beck said a gallon of GHB is “a lot of doses.”

Clay Morris, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s division in Alabama, said he’s seen a recent resurgence of GHB in Auburn and on other college campuses across the southeast and the U.S.

Officials haven’t confirmed any victims directly related to the drugs they say Howard made.

Morris said the drug can be sold for $10 per ounce.

“A teaspoon is a half of a dosage unit of GHB,” he said. “When you see retail level GHB distributors in night clubs or at rave parties or at parties at peoples’ house, they sell GHB by the capful. So they literally take a two-liter cap off of a Coke bottle and they’ll sell you that as a dosage unit.”

Morris commended the Auburn Police Department for its work.

“You’ve literally removed a dangerous criminal element from not only the campus but also from the streets of Auburn, who is selling once again another type of poison to our children, your children, our college students, that have serious and potentially life-altering and deadly consequences,” he said.

Court documents describe Howard as an employee in the university’s poly-fiber engineering department.

In a statement, Auburn University spokesman Mike Clardy noted the school is not being charged.

“Auburn University is not a subject of this investigation but has been fully cooperating with all law enforcement officials,” Clardy said.

A hearing for Howard is scheduled for Wednesday.

Christine Freeman of the federal public defender’s office said the case is still in its infancy.

“The presumption of innocence still stands and that is what he is entitled to and that’s what we’ll be enforcing,” she said.

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