HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Rave-Goers Achieve Victory in Racine
Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jan 2003
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2003 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Author: Tom Kertscher
Bookmark: (Raves)


City prosecutors dismiss citations against 440

Racine - The 440 multi-pierced, electronic-music-loving party-goers who were
stung with $968 citations for attending a rave party gained a sweeping
victory Thursday.

City prosecutors admitted they couldn't prove their case and agreed to
dismiss all of the citations.

Even ravers who pleaded no contest and paid a reduced fine will get their
money back.

The only consolation for the city is that, according to the agreement, the
Milwaukee-based American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which
represented most of the party-goers, said it would not sue the city.

The city also agreed to change its policing of such gatherings and to
expunge from all records any evidence that the citations had ever been

Questions remain

But how the result of the crackdown might affect raves in Racine and other
communities remains in debate.

Crystal Sheets, 20, a Kansasville resident who was ticketed, said she thinks
that Racine police would crash another rave and that despite the ticket
dismissals, other communities would do the same.

"They'll find a way to bust other kids," she said. "They may not take the
same approach, but they'll find a way."

Racine Police Chief David Spenner said Thursday in a statement to his
officers that he was disappointed about the dismissals. And visitors to
Racine, he added, must understand that "this situation does not slow police
resolve to keep this community free of illegal drug use."

But Michael Sperling, a Milwaukee lawyer who sued the City of Milwaukee for
jailing people accused of ticket scalping, said the Racine case should make
local governments wary.

"There's a message to police that they better be careful before they go in
and do things (at public gatherings), just not go in and do a sweep," he

Buzz on Internet

The Racine citations started a buzz on the Internet partly because of the
size of the original fines but also because it was the first time anyone had
heard of authorities going after rave attendees rather than party

The rave, a type of party distinguished by electronic music and often
associated with illegal drug use, was held Nov. 2 at a bar near downtown
Racine. Police descended on it after getting a tip that illegal drugs would
be there and after undercover officers allegedly observed illegal drugs.

Police reasoned that the drug activity was apparent to everyone at the
party; virtually anyone who could be detained was ticketed under the city's
"inmate of a disorderly house/controlled substances" ordinance.

Assistant City Attorney Scott Lewis moved quickly to defuse the situation,
first offering to reduce the fine to $100 and then to remove any reference
to drugs from the citation. But the vast majority of ravers refused the plea
bargains and demanded Municipal Court trials, a potentially costly prospect
for the city, given the need for officers to testify. More important, city
attorneys ultimately concluded it was impossible to determine which people
at the party knew illegal activities were going on.

City's hand forced

The city's hand also was forced by the threat of a class-action lawsuit from
the ACLU. The citations violated the ravers' constitutional right to
association, the ACLU said.

"I think that will send a strong message to other cities in the state and
perhaps in the country that the constitutional rights of individuals trump
any concern about possible drug use," said Racine attorney Erik Guenther,
who assisted the ACLU.

Lewis said city officials still believe they were successful in deterring
parties where illegal drug use might occur.

"The Racine Police Department is not going to tolerate usage of illegal
drugs. I think people know that now," he said.

Only three people at the party were arrested on drug charges, however, and
those charges remain in force. Many party-goers said that, although some
people come to raves for Ecstasy or other drugs, most just enjoy the music.

Mike Phillips, 26, a suburban Baltimore resident who followed the Racine
cases on the Internet, pointed out that the Racine party was held in a
tavern - a big change from the early-day "underground" raves when illegal
drugs were more common.

"They're fighting a battle that they should have started 10 years ago," he
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