Feds vs. Deadheads in Missouri "Schwagstock" Forfeiture Battle [FEATURE]

Since 2004, when veteran musician Jimmy Tebeau brought the 350-acre rural property in central Missouri and turned it a camping and concert venue, Camp Zoe has been Deadhead central in the Show Me State. A member of the Grateful Dead tribute band The Schwag, Tebeau has hosted numerous Schwagstock and Spookstock festivals, as well as other concerts and events, drawing nationally known acts and thousands of fans for weekends of outdoor fun in the sun.

Jimmy Tebeau (image via campzoe.com)
But the DEA and the Missouri Highway Patrol harshed Camp Zoe's mellow vibe last November, when they rolled into the venue early in the morning and searched the site. A week later, they announced that they were initiating federal civil asset forfeiture proceedings against the property because of alleged rampant drug use and Tebeau's failure to put a halt to it.

According to a complaint filed November 8 in the Eastern Missouri US District Court, the feds alleged that "over the past several years law enforcement agents have specifically observed the open sales of cocaine, marijuana, LSD (acid), ecstasy, psilocybin mushrooms, opium and marijuana-laced food products by individuals attending the music festival and made multiple undercover purchases of illegal drugs."

Tebeau and other Camp Zoe staff members "were in the immediate area" when drug deals were going down and "took no immediate action to prevent the activity," the complaint continued. It added that "undercover purchases have been made as recently as September 2010," when Schwagstock 45 was held, but noted that the investigation stretched back to 2006 and included evidence from "surveillance, undercover operations, source information, bank records, and interviews."

Most critically, the complaint alleges that Camp Zoe was "knowingly opened, rented, leased, used, or maintained for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using controlled substances." In other words, the feds are arguing that the purpose of Camp Zoe was not to be a concert venue, but a drug den, and it could thus be lawfully seized, along with nearly $200,000 in cash they seized from the site and various bank accounts.

good clean fun at Camp Zoe (image from campzoe.com)
The case pitting a local counterculture icon and his property against the power of the federal government has stirred considerable interest in Missouri, as well as among members of the peripatetic Deadhead set. (In fact, I had a conversation about the case with a dreadlocked young woman at a Northern California music festival last weekend.) It has also excited the attention of asset forfeiture reformers and critics of overweening governmental power.

But wait, it's even worse. The feds upped the ante further just a couple of weeks ago. After stalling the asset forfeiture proceedings for seven months -- leaving Camp Zoe silent and vacant and Tebeau without his primary source of income -- and seeing that Tebeau was not about to roll over for them, federal prosecutors last week sought and got a criminal indictment charging that Tebeau "knowingly and intentionally profited from and made available for use, with or without compensation, said place for the purpose of unlawfully storing, distributing, or using controlled substances."

"This is the sort of things Soviet thugs did and that continues to happen in Russia under Vladimir Putin," said Eapen Thampy, executive director of the Kansas City-based Americans for Forfeiture Reform. "They take a businessman, take his money, and take him to jail. I see this as an attempt by rich and powerful law enforcement agencies to acquire property or money they can turn into salaries or equipment."

fun and camping at Camp Zoe (image from campzoe.com)
"The Camp Zoe situation is really interesting," said Dave Roland, a St. Louis-based attorney who is director of litigation for the libertarian-leaning Missouri Freedom Center. "The federal government has recently come back and said they will charge him with maintaining the property for the purpose of facilitating drug transactions, but that seems like an after the fact justification for their attempt to seize the property. The more likely explanation is that the government was embarrassed by the fact people kept saying how can you take this property without alleging he's doing something illegal in the first place," he ventured.

"There was no one engaging in violence at Camp Zoe, there were no allegations of harm or injury," Roland continued. "That the government is concentrating on these sorts of victimless crimes demonstrates misplaced priorities. Especially in light of the financial crunch, we ought to be reallocating resources to deal with real threats to the health and safety of the community and not these drug witch hunts."

But there's the rub. Missouri law enforcement agencies profit handsomely from asset forfeiture, especially when they do an end run around state asset forfeiture law and partner with the feds. Under a 2004 asset forfeiture reform law, funds seized by state and local law enforcement agencies are supposed to go to the state education fund, but that's not what happened.

The state auditor's reports on asset forfeiture activity show a quick learning curve by state and local law enforcement. While, after the 1994 reforms, schools got 27% of seized funds in 1996 and 1997, in 1998, that figure fell by half to 14%. There was no audit done in 1999, but in 2000 and every year since, schools have gotten 2%, with that figure dropping to 1% in 2008 and 2009. Meanwhile the Justice Department and state and local cops have raked in millions of dollars, gobbling up the vast majority of funds that were supposed to go to Missouri's schools.

"Asset forfeiture abuse is rampant all over the country," said Roland. "Here in Missouri, the state made an effort to improve its statutes a decade ago, but the problem is that law enforcement agencies find alternative ways to accomplish the same end. Now, you see state and local law enforcement handing cases over to federal agencies because they get a kickback from the asset forfeitures. There is an actual financial incentive to assist federal agencies in the unconstitutional use of asset forfeiture laws."

"Missouri has laws that say how asset forfeiture should be conducted and where the money should go, but they aren't being followed," said Thampy. "When you put this into that context, these abuses are way more serious," he said, adding that he believed 90% of Missouri counties were not in compliance with the law.

Neither Roland nor Thampy were impressed with the criminal charges now being brought against Tebeau. Nor were they aware of other cases of "maintaining a drug premise" being brought against other concert venues. That law is widely known as the "crack house" law.

"The government has a pretty steep hill to climb to prove that Tebeau was operating this camp so that people could buy illegal drugs," said Roland. "I'm very skeptical that the government is going to be able to carry its burden of proof."

"That charge is complete bullshit," Thampy responded bluntly. "If they wanted to charge him with drug trafficking or drug possession, those would be appropriate charges if they could prove them. But charging him with running a drug premise says that he got this land for the sole purpose of conducting drug transactions. It would be putting it mildly to say this is an abuse of prosecutorial power."

"To the best of my understanding, this is not a commonly used statute," said Roland. "I don't recall ever seeing it used in the context of a concert venue owner. They're alleging that the property is being used for the purpose of facilitating drug transactions simply because Tebeau didn't take some unspecified affirmative action."

Now facing criminal charges as well as the seizure of Camp Zoe, Tebeau is still refusing to roll over and cut a deal. With his income-producing property shut down and his bank accounts seized, Tebeau is at a real disadvantage, but thanks to his fans and followers and continuing gigs as a musician, he has so far been able to raise the funds to defend himself.

"A just outcome would be dropping the charges and dropping the attempted asset forfeiture," said Roland. "If we're not going to legalize drugs, the government needs to at least focus on the people and activities they're really worried about. Jimmy hasn't been charged with actually being involved, and it's unjust to target him for a criminal action because someone else was doing something illegal. That's manifestly unjust."

Camp Zoe
MO
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Karma is a B****

Them long haired hippies are getting what they've given! Since the sixties they've been misusing the force of government to try and make this country all free love and free food and free medical coverage. Now their dog has turned around and is biting their asses!! Ha Ha. If they'd have just gone about their worldwide makeover cooperatively instead of misusing government their dog wouldn't have grown so big and mean!! That's what you get when you use gov to feed the hungry when you shoulda just got off your stoned asses and fed the hungry yourself!!

Do you actually believe that?

Do you actually believe that? That has to be the most tortured logic I've ever read. 

 

You should be embarrassed.

Yes I do. Hippies grew the

Yes I do. Hippies grew the size of government by using it to do things that could have been done much more efficiently if done cooperatively and then complain when the behemoth they created is used against them. If the hippies had cooperatively executed their plans for a better world government would not be as big and overbearing as it is today and would not have the power it does today to be used against them. A government severly limited in power could not execute today's war on drugs. Today's government was grown out of the hippies misuse of it for things it was never intended for.

Government = Gun. Does it make sense to feed the hungry with a gun? Does it make sense to educate our children using a gun? Does it make sense to heal our sick using a gun? The more you use that gun the bigger it gets. I'm not really into the bible so much but it does make sense where it says "We reap what we sow".

I think it's great to feed the hungry, heal the sick and educate our kids but we shouldn't be doing it with violence. All of these things could be done cooperatively instead of at the point of a gun.

Your a Dumbass

Everything that your stereotypical "Hippies" did or do now to try and change the world for the better was or is shot down, taken over, or taxed by your beloved government. It's their right as citizens to challenge their government on what it take priority in governing. People always talk about the "the people" and "the government" as though they are two separate groups. This is not at all correct. Remember that piece of HEMP paper that says "We the people....". If you have a dog that you grew up with and has been there for you always, you still have to put it down if it goes rabid. You should be embarrassed for blaming the "Hippies" for taking a stand and in turn, the government abusing its power over the people. We pay the the government to make changes and laws to enforce or feed the hungry. Our job to bitch, and their job to listen and take action. Or are all those taxes just so they get paid better, have better insurance, and buy and do whatever they want. At least the "Hippies" take a stand while you sit there on your fat ass and watch it on TV or read about on your computer. 

Your a Dumbass

Everything that your stereotypical "Hippies" did or do now to try and change the world for the better was or is shot down, taken over, or taxed by your beloved government. It's their right as citizens to challenge their government on what it take priority in governing. People always talk about the "the people" and "the government" as though they are two separate groups. This is not at all correct. Remember that piece of HEMP paper that says "We the people....". If you have a dog that you grew up with and has been there for you always, you still have to put it down if it goes rabid. You should be embarrassed for blaming the "Hippies" for taking a stand and in turn, the government abusing its power over the people. We pay the the government to make changes and laws to enforce or feed the hungry. Our job to bitch, and their job to listen and take action. Or are all those taxes just so they get paid better, have better insurance, and buy and do whatever they want. At least the "Hippies" take a stand while you sit there on your fat ass and watch it on TV or read about on your computer.

what are you talking about?

The government has been biting people's asses over drugs for 100 years.

Long haired hippies "misusing the force of government"? Since when do "long haired hippies" have the power to do that, if they had any power, they would have used it get weed legalized.

And for your information, there are plenty of conservatives, libertarian or otherwise, who support legalizing cannabis. 

Agree with you but for one nitpick

libertarians are not conservatives, please don't lump us in with them.

I was trying to make a distinction

maybe not warranted, between conservatives who support cannabis legalization at least partly because of libertarian sympathies, and conservatives with no such sympathies who support it for other reasons such as not wanting to empower the cartels, feeling that we just can't afford the war on cannabis users anymore, and thinking that it's much safer than alcohol, so why ban it and force people to use alcohol to get high? 

Conservative Corporate Capatalist Power is killing us.

I can understand the ideal of a libertarian system, and I'm all for the social issues being liberal, but you simply cannot trust corporations to do anything ethically.  Under an entirely free market, you'd end up a wage-slave eating poison until you can't serve them anymore, and then you'd be homeless and eating nothing until you die.  That already happens too much under the half-capatalist system we currently have.  Money was a tool that was useful for a while to manage scare resources, but it has enslaved us.  Now, scarcity is artificially maintained to continue a monetary system that is built on debt.  We have the tech to use resources far more efficiently and meet people's needs without servitude. 

@anonymous

Misusing the force of government? How is that possible? I'd bet hippies have fed more of their fellow man than folks like you...

I have two Abraham Lincoln quotes, one in response: "Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.",   and one directly at you: "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."

Power to the people!

Come on, people

Please don't feed the trolls. It just encourages them.

your fucking joking right

how can you say that. if it wasnt for what you say "the longhaird hippies" there would be fucking nazis running around this world. if you dont recall...it was an absolute revolution....just because this is happening to zoe DO NOT think for one second this is the end of it.

maybe one day one of those "stoned asses" will save your life or lighten your day.....think about what your saying....your no better than anyone and last of all....for you to laugh about it....if only you could have seen the beauty of this place....it was a weekend getaway.....nazi....hahahhahahahahah

yours truely,

                      a long haired hippie =)

There's nothing wrong with

There's nothing wrong with hippies you dumb fuck. And marijuana is only illegal because the government CAN tax it but they CAN'T control the QUALITY of the seed (no duh! a marijuana plant is unpredictable at times). So you shut your conservative trap.

There's nothing wrong with

There's nothing wrong with hippies you dumb fuck. And marijuana is only illegal because the government CAN tax it but they CAN'T control the QUALITY of the seed (no duh! a marijuana plant is unpredictable at times). So you shut your conservative trap.

Karma is a B****

Them long haired hippies are getting what they've given! Since the sixties they've been misusing the force of government to try and make this country all free love and free food and free medical coverage. Now their dog has turned around and is biting their asses!! Ha Ha. If they'd have just gone about their worldwide makeover cooperatively instead of misusing government their dog wouldn't have grown so big and mean!! That's what you get when you use gov to feed the hungry when you shoulda just got off your stoned asses and fed the hungry yourself!!

Doublestandards

Ok, this does not make sense to me. .  .the feds alleged that "over the past several years law enforcement agents have specifically observed the open sales of cocaine, marijuana, LSD (acid), ecstasy, psilocybin mushrooms, opium and marijuana-laced food products by individuals attending the music festival and made multiple undercover purchases of illegal drugs."

And in the very next paragraph. . . Tebeau and other Camp Zoe staff members "were in the immediate area" when drug deals were going down and "took no immediate action to prevent the activity," the complaint continued. It added that "undercover purchases have been made as recently as September 2010," when Schwagstock 45 was held, but noted that the investigation stretched back to 2006 and included evidence from "surveillance, undercover operations, source information, bank records, and interviews."

So this seems to say to me. . .That the feds "were in the immediate area" when drug deals were going down and "took no immediate action to prevent the activity," since 2006.

Don't police have an obligation, it is their job specifically, to arrest someone breaking the law?

Doublestandards, the police should not profit from enforcing the law, the forfeiture laws are unconstitutional.

Sean

Right on Sean! Not doing

Right on Sean! Not doing anything about it is condoning it.

If police had any

If police had any "obligation" to arrest law-breakers, they'd be so busy arresting each other they wouldn't have time to go rummaging through our toilets and trash desperately seeking excuses to take us to jail.

Good point Sean. This is

Good point Sean. This is exactly like the ATF  "Fast &  Furious" campaign,where guns were allowed to go free. Here the drugs were allowed to pass to users where they were used (abused in the DEA eyes). Why dont we see some higher-ups stepping down like we saw with ATF?

Donations

I've never been there, I don't like the Dead, and I don't know Mr. Tebeau, but I know injustice when I see it. I've donated twice to their defense fund.

http://www.campzoe.com/

[Or the 2nd link in the article.]

Government Forfeiture Fraud 101

Forfeiture is a vehicle for criminal theft.  It’s one of many crimes a government can choose to inflict upon its own citizens. 

It may be hard for some people to wrap their minds around the idea that a government can commit crimes against good people like themselves, crimes often motivated by an institutionalized bigotry, or greed.  The Jews in Nazi Germany had this attitude, until it was too late for them to complain.  But then most scams work by providing plausible disguises, rationalisms, soundbites claiming good intentions, grandiose public health imperatives, soul saving.

Whatever little faith the average citizen may have in their government, the corruption they think they know and can tolerate still reaches unfathomable new lows with prohibition.

In government, if corruption is possible, if it is not stopped, it becomes mandatory.

The potential for institutionalized fraud is always present.  It’s like a seed waiting for water and nutrients.  Forfeiture, like prohibition, is the manure that makes government-based criminal fraud bloom and prosper. 

And unlike marijuana buds, prohibition and forfeiture blooms look ugly, and they really stink.

Giordano   

Pain Relief Network

The DEA does a similar thing to doctors who treat pain. http://painreliefnetwork.org/ was started and run by Siobhan Reynolds, who has recently bowed out. But the website is still maintained, albeit at a low level,  by her supporters.

The strategy is the same. Arrest someone prosecutors don't like and deprive him of the resources to defend himself. Then threaten him with a charge that carries a mandatory sentence of, say 25 years, to force him to take a plea. We Americans no longer live under the rule of law; we live under the rule of prosecutors who interpret the letter of the law to suit themselves, such arcana (in the MO CAFA law at least) as the definition of a "seizure". The drug war has washed away many cherished legal traditions.Civil forfeiture is one of them.

civil forfeiture is the

civil forfeiture is the bastard offspring of medieval witchhunts conducted by church officials and their proxies. those convicted of witchcraft had their property confiscated. at the time of the french revolution, the catholic church owned 1/3 of french real estate thanks to this heinous practice.

 

from the main essay above: '"A just outcome would be dropping the charges and dropping the attempted asset forfeiture," said Roland. no, mr. roland, a just outcome would be that those who conduct and profit from witch hunt persecutions are dispossessed of all worldly power. don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Gestapo Attitude

DEA is a sort of modern times Gestapo that harasses peaceful people and makes war against the citizens of their country...Shame, shame, shame....

thanks

I'll some day write a book, but for now i'd just like to thank all of those good people who were involved with camp zoe for taking care of there campers so well and making sure everyone's stay was a safe and happy time.  what a good time. hope we can do it again. and for now lets get this mess turned around. thanks 

I can't believe anyone feels

I can't believe anyone feels they still have the right to put anyone in any category??? "Long haired hippies are all over and half of them have cut their hair and became your DOCTORS, LAWYERS, AND JUDGES!!!!!!! ( Although it doesn't sound like any of them were on this case???!!! Hmmm...... Maybe those Nazis someone spoke about??) As for my opinion..... This is a FREE COUNTRY and alot of our historians were long haired hippies that smoked the best cannabis and made our country what it is today!!!! i do not believe in hurtin anyone else and I believe the drugs that are LEGAL today are some of the worst for our health and our country not alone to mention all the other uses for HEMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Save our planet and TRY HEMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sincerely,

Long haired bit in the ass stoned hippie!! XO

camp zoe

I was there in 2005. What an execellent time we all had. no violence, no trouble. I wish I had a lot of money to help Tebeau and the band. They are good people. This war has got to stop.

Rainbow Farm All Over Again

This has many, many of the same finger prints as Rainbow Farm in Vandalia, Michigan, in 2001.  If he has children, look out.  That was how they finally pushed Tom and Rollie over the line.  That ended in a siege on the property for 4 days in which the government brought in 10 trucks worth of troops, set up a 2 mile perimeter and killed both men.  The specifics in this case are eerily similar.  This could escalate in ways that are no good for anyone.

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