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.”