"Grateful Dead music lovers will no longer be truckin' down to Shannon County for outdoor music festivals if three law enforcement agencies get their way in federal court.
On Monday, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the U.S. Attorney's Office filed a joint complaint in the Eastern District of Missouri asking to seize the 350-acre Zoe Farm, alleging rampant drug dealing and drug use at events.
According to its website, the farm, called Camp Zoe, is located 150 miles southwest of St. Louis near Salem and hosts a popular Grateful Dead festival call Schwagstock every year, as well as biker and pagan rallies and individual concerts. Once a popular summer camp for kids, the property was purchased in 2004 by Jimmy Tebeau, a member of the Schwag, a Grateful Dead tribute band. He opened the grounds to recreational camping and float trips and began hosting the festivals soon after the purchase.
In the complaint, officials said investigators spent four years monitoring and interacting with concertgoers on the farm, witnessing drug use and completing open drug deals with participants during events. Officials allege that the owner and event operators were aware of the activity and "took no immediate action to prevent" the sale and use of cocaine, marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin mushrooms, opium and marijuana-laced food.
Tebeau has not been charged with a crime. Nor would he have to be for the court to approve the seizure of the property under a civil asset forfeiture law that enables the federal government to take property that is relied upon by criminals as part of an illegal money-making enterprise. The complaint values the farm at $600,000."
Right up front, and I've got to be honest, I think the people that attend Schwagstock here in Missouri are a bunch of losers. It's a festival that tries to recreate the "glory days" of the '60's and following the Dead. It's composed mostly of people with glazed over eyes, stinkin' bodies, tie dye shirts and long hair, smokin' joints and hopin' to spread or create some new kind of sexually transmitted disease.
And if that's what they want to do, let 'em. As long as they keep it on the farm. It doesn't break my bones or pick my pockets.
The real problem here is that the government can seize the property of someone because they've witnessed illegal activity on it. Obviously, the guy that owns the farm and the people that promote the concerts know exactly what's happening. How couldn't they. But, so what? Have they been convicted of anything yet?
And why didn't they simply arrest the people they observed breaking the law on the farm at the time they broke it? Why not pull people over as they leave based on what the officers saw at the show? If they really wanted to put an end to the problem just letting everyone know that they were being observed would have done it.
But that wouldn't intimidate on a large enough scale. A few arrests don't get anyone's attention; stealing their property using the law does.
The government has seized the bank accounts of the farm owner, leaving him defenseless in the face of their assault because, once again, they have accused, not convicted him, of fronting a criminal enterprise.
"Tebeau's lawyer, Dan Viets, said the law is unfair and enables the government to bully innocent property owners and take land, money and homes nearly at will.
"One doesn't even need to be accused of a crime, let alone convicted of one to be threatened with the loss of everything you own," Viets said. "That's the threat."
Viets, who is representing his client pro bono, said Tebeau discovered this week that officials had cleaned out his bank account, yet he has not been served legal notice on that forfeiture.
"It's pretty darn hard to hire legal counsel if you don't have any money — and the government knows that," Viets said. "It's just heavy-handed and mean-spirited, and entirely uncalled for."
Special, isn't it?
Now, I have no doubt that the owner of the property and the promoters of the show have broken all kinds of laws and they've made money doing it. Fine. Arrest them and charge them. But don't strip them of their assets and their ability to defend themselves first!
We are supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty. This kind of crap flips that concept right on its head. This is the government using its power to intimidate, nothing more, nothing less. When it does these sorts of things it send a message to the rest of of us that we better toe the line and do as we're told or we could be destroyed with the stroke of a pen.
Further, I've never believed that these laws were enforced fairly, justly or consistently. They're used as a tool of intimidation as often as not.
I remember, years ago, when the son of St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Dee Joyce Hayes was arrested, in a car she owned, with a trunk full of pot, some of which he had sold. I followed this pretty closely at the time and from what I could tell her car was never seized, even though if a normal person had been pulled over and even a roach was found in an ash tray, bye-bye car and probably the money in the wallet and maybe in the bank account if the government wanted.
One law for them; another for us.
What good's a legal system if it's not also a system of justice? And if the government can use these coercive and intimidating techniques on the guy that owns this farm why can't they use them against you or me if they don't like what we say or do? How is this any differnt than say having the IRS investigate a political opponent. It's not! These are the state powers that are so often used in third world countries or by Communist regimes to silence those that oppose them.
We're supposed to be a nation of laws and I suppose we are. One set of laws to frighten and control the people and another to enrich and empower the connected.
Welcome to our brave new America.