Thursday, November 18, 2010

When the kids at Camp Zoe go overboard

This is what happens when kids don't know what the Grateful Dead was really about. Even Alyssa complained in 1993 that the Dead followers she encountered at shows were "so uncool." She even had her Volkswagon van broken into by kids looking for drugs. Way uncool.

From the Current River Hills:
Undercover bust burns Camp Zoe fans
By T.J. Greaney Columbia Daily Tribune
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Apparently, not all of the dudes and dudettes swaying to the rhythm at Schwagstock were there to mellow out.

This week we learned that after a four-year undercover investigation, the federal government is on the verge of seizing Camp Zoe, the Missouri farmland that is home to regular Grateful Dead tribute music festivals.

According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri, officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies have been deep undercover amid the rolling hills and gyrating bodies of Shannon County.

The complaint says that agents witnessed “open sales” of cocaine, marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin mushrooms, opium and marijuana-laced food products during the concerts. The sales allegedly occurred while Camp Zoe staff — including owner Jimmy Tebeau — were in the immediate area.

One can only assume these agents were dressed in tie-dyed T-shirts and kicked hacky-sacks back and forth to blend in with the crowd. Buzz cuts tend to stick out at Camp Zoe.

The result of the investigation is that Tebeau, the dreadlocked bass player who co-founded the band The Schwag, is facing the seizure of nearly all of his assets. That includes the property valued by the government at $600,000 and a bank account of more than $100,000.

It’s a stunning turn of events for a man with a cuddly, mainstream image. In 2005, Tebeau was even honored by a resolution in the Missouri House of Representatives saying:

“We, the members of the Missouri House of Representatives, Ninety-third General Assembly, join unanimously to applaud the entrepreneurial spirit and creative skills embodied in the life and work of Jimmy Tebeau.”

But somewhere along the line, the official good will for Tebeau and his merry band of free spirits seems to have worn off.

The federal complaint seeks to seize the property under Title 21 of the U.S. Code. The burden of proof will be much lower in this civil case than it would be in a criminal proceeding. And unlike protections offered by Missouri law, Tebeau does not have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to lose his 352 acres. Under Missouri forfeiture law reformed in 2001, a defendant must be convicted of a felony before the government can seize his or her property.

Federal law carries no such requirement.

Under Title 21, Section 856, a property owner can be charged with “maintaining drug-involved premises” if he or she knowingly opens, rents, leases or makes available a property “for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing, or using a controlled substance.”

Columbia attorney Dan Viets, who is representing Tebeau in the case, wondered whether this broad interpretation of federal forfeiture law means Columbia city parks might be subject to seizure. After all, Douglass Park and Stephens Lake Park have been the site of repeated arrests over the years. City Parks and Recreation Department officials must have known there was at least a decent possibility they could be the site of crimes when they were built.

Or, Viets said, what about any other large concert venue?

“When the Rolling Stones played Memorial Stadium, it was full of smoke, and there was no effort to stop it,” Viets said. “Does that mean the feds are going to come and seize Memorial Stadium?”

Supporters of Camp Zoe are raising funds to help pay for Tebeau’s legal defense.

Local music fan Courtney Allyson Joseph spoke for many in an e-mail to the Tribune decrying the police raid: “The owners cannot possibly supervise everyone that attends a festival out there,” she wrote. “Bottom line, take care of the bad people, and leave the peaceful ones alone.”

But not everyone was surprised by the demise of the camp. Arrests at Zoe were fairly common, and the medical staff there is periodically called into service to deal with overdoses. According to multiple accounts, drug dealers would walk among the crowd brazenly hawking their wares during large festivals.

I spoke to a musician who played Zoe for years and said he had become frustrated with the rampant drug use. He didn’t fault Tebeau personally but said his band stopped playing there several years ago when they became convinced the drugs had become too much of a distraction from the music. “We really lost interest, lost faith in the whole thing,” said the musician, who asked not to be named. “Kids were out of their minds on ecstasy or Molly” — a form of ecstasy usually snorted — “it became something we just didn’t care for.”

The musician said the campgrounds had become a playground for a certain type of privileged, suburban “trust fund” kid who abuses drugs with parents’ money. These kids were nicknamed “Trust-afarians,” and, he said, their drug use was shocking.

“We call it getting spongy — just over-drugged,” he said. “It’s really frustrating to play your set in front of a large crowd and they’re so out of it you could literally burp in front of a microphone and they would just keep standing there in front of the stage.”


Scott Merritt said...

If you look at the early maps of the proposed National Monument, you see that all of Sinkin Creek, from the Current on up to and beyond the Sinks, was included within the boundaries. It really is an amazing creek.

Allison Vaughn said...

That whole country from Sinking Creek to Big Creek (before all the ATVs ragged out the smallmouth holes...) and on both sides are pretty nice. Historically, it was post oak-white oak on the south slopes, with white oak-elm-hickory on the moist coves of the north facing slopes. That doesn't exist anymore, but from a watershed standpoint, and a contiguous tract of woodland, it's remarkable it hasn't been clearcut. Never been to Camp Zoe, though have met kids who wanted to go, had pets, and ended up on our property--nice kids. It's like bands in New Orleans--they smoke weed and everything's fine, but once they get money and get their hands on harder stuff, they get totally paranoid and the world falls apart. Kids should really just stick to turkey sandwiches or bike parts or whatever people here call it. Stay away from anything that causes a racing heartbeat. Bad news.

Justin Thomas said...

I am proud to say I was a Dead Head and a Rainbow. The main reason I'm not now, other than just growing up, is all the "drainbows" and drug-thugs that have dominated the scene since the early 1990's. Few folks are in it for the music and the fellowship these days; if they ever really were.

I have also seen the harassment dished out by law enforcement during Zoe events. If the rest of this "bust" is similar to the illegal and unconstitutional roadblocks and searches they orchestrate along Hwy 19 every summer, then none of this will hold up in a court of law. There has been some real cowboy justice dished out down here and it leaves a real nasty taste in my mouth.

Kids are dumb. They always have been and they always will be. I agree with the Zoe lawyer in that you cannot hold the venue responsible for the behavior of the patrons. Hell, think of all the people that poison themselves in bars and the social ramification of that behavior. The whole thing is silly, cowboy and far more rooted in redneck xenophobia than law.

Allison Vaughn said...

I've always wondered how Shannon Co. folks and the hippies ever coexisted. Gosh, I know how I'm treated down there, and I know how to read logging roads, I drink the bad coffee in some of the towns, I spend a lot of time in that part of the country. I'm with you, man, they sort of brought it on themselves.

Anonymous said...

the important thing to remember is that this romantic ideal of jerry and the crew just smoking a few dubies and having a good time is a farce. they had serious problems with heroin and cocaine, which were the real hippy drugs of choice across the whole scene. the main weed they had in the 60's was sativa dominated and cured really wrong, so it didn't affect you anywhere near the way today's indica blends do.
Justin is completely right about various harassement techniques and serious profiling. sadly, many people can't afford the right kind of lawyer who can shoot holes in the corrupt prosecutions case. if only california would have had their heads screwed on straight and not fallen for hype, some REAL change may have come to this country, alas, it is not to be...yet