Pubdate: Mon, 6 Dec 2010
Source: Riverfront Times (St. Louis, MO)
Copyright: 2010 Riverfront Times, LLC
Author: Keegan Hamilton
Cited: Camp Zoe
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


Could Other Music Festivals Face Trouble, Too?

Is this SWAT team coming to a music festival near you?

Carrie Goebel went to sleep this Halloween in her own version of 
paradise. She woke up to a nightmare.

The 46-year-old artist from Warrenton, Missouri, spent the last 
weekend in October camping out at Camp Zoe's Spookstock music 
festival. "It was a good time, the weather was great, there were lots 
of good costumes," she recalls. "Little kids were trick-or-treating 
from campsite to campsite. It was a good time. It was a great weekend."

But on the morning of Monday, November 1, Goebel and several hundred 
other Spookstock holdovers awoke to find a small army of law 
enforcement officers storming the campground.

"I was making coffee and I look over and there was a pickup truck 
full of police officers and in the back was men in camouflage," 
Goebel says. "They were going from tent to tent telling people to get 
out. There was a hazmat team and police cars from Salem and Rolla. I 
wasn't there when the dogs came, but they wrote down my driver's 
license info in a notebook and then filmed me leaving. I didn't know 
what to do. I felt like I was being terrorized."

Only later did Goebel learn that the raid was the culmination of a 
four-year-long investigation by the DEA and the Missouri State 
Highway Patrol into alleged drug use and sales by Camp Zoe 
concertgoers. No one -- including Camp Zoe owner Jimmy Tebeau -- has 
been charged with a crime, but the eastern Missouri U.S. Attorney's 
Office is attempting to confiscate the 352-acre property using a 
controversial process called asset forfeiture.

It's not just alarming to festival attendees like Goebel. The 
situation has other music festival organizers worried that they, too, 
might be held accountable for any illegal activity that happens to 
take place at their event.

"It has gotten our attention," says Brian Cohen, the organizer of St. 
Louis' LouFest. "All festivals take on some degree of liability. 
That's why we hire security, medical personnel, etc. But the 
potential penalties in this case seem to put it in a different 
category. LouFest and Schwagstock are two very different animals, so 
it's hard to know what impact this could have on us. But we're 
definitely watching it."

Dave Roland, an attorney with the for the non-profit advocacy group 
Freedom Center of Missouri, calls the Camp Zoe seizure "a shot across 
the bow" for individuals who host music festivals or popular events 
on private land.

"My home state is Tennessee," Roland says. "What about Bonnaroo? The 
folks who own that property need to be very aware and very concerned. 
With any large gathering of young people, there's probably going to 
be some illegal activity, and if that's taking place, it appears that 
property could be subject to forfeiture."

Of course, the Camp Zoe case is not the first time federal 
authorities have attempted to crack down on hippie-friendly 
festivities. Last year, for instance, agents from the U.S. Forest 
Service arrested dozens of attendees at a Rainbow Gathering in New Mexico.

Garrick Beck, a Rainbow Gathering collaborator in New Mexico, says 
he's not worried about facing asset forfeiture, because the group 
always congregates in federally-owned National Forests. However, Beck 
does believe that the threat of forfeiture will be an effective scare 
tactic in the years to come.

"What you've got here is a situation where federal law enforcement is 
seeking to harass a culture by targeting people who are not directly 
involved in the drug sales or distribution," he says. "I think that 
is the essence of the problem that this group is facing. It wouldn't 
surprise me if federal officers try to use that in other instances to 
scare people from attending or promoting other counterculture events."

Dan Viets, Tebeau's attorney, says the November 1 raid on Camp Zoe 
involved about 80 federal agents and they "didn't find so much as a 
roach" on the property.

"There were several dozen federal agents from all the alphabet soups 
- -- IRS, DEA, ATF -- backed up by local cops who came onto the 
property with federal subpoenas," Viets says. "They basically asked 
for business records, which they got."

The DEA and U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the 
specifics of the ongoing investigation.

An official statement published on the Camp Zoe website says "one 
patron was arrested for previous warrants unrelated to Camp Zoe." The 
message also says, "the same day the DEA seized all the money in the 
Camp Zoe bank account -- which included most of the gate receipts for 
the Spookstock 9 weekend. This money was to be used to pay staff, 
artists, security, production (lights & sound), trash pickup, etc. 
for the festival weekend. It was also to be used for the basic bills 
for Camp Zoe to get the business through the winter."

Emmett McAuliffe, another attorney representing Tebeau and Camp Zoe, 
says that the campground will remain closed for the duration of the 
asset forfeiture proceedings, but the Schwagstock festivals will 
continue next year at other yet-to-be-determined venues in Missouri.

"This is a travesty," McAuliffe says. "To me [Jimmy] was being a good 
guy by taking a campground that was undeveloped and sitting there 
fallow and turning it into a vibrant economic asset for Shannon County."

McAuliffe says Tebeau and Camp Zoe are accepting donations via their 
website for a legal defense fund and to pay the venue's bills during 
the winter. Camp Zoe supporters have also organized a benefit concert 
on Christmas night at the Roberts Orpheum Theater featuring Tebeau's 
band the Schwag.  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake