Undercover agents interviewed a cocaine dealer who boasted of selling two kilograms of product every weekend at Camp Zoe. (Court documents say the man, a convicted armed robber, was banned from the festival in 2010 for carrying a gun.) "It is common," the feds alleged, "for the officers to walk around the grounds and witness drug sellers weighing out powder cocaine in the open for a buyer."

Callahan, the federal prosecutor, points to a DEA estimate that $500,000 worth of drugs changed hands every weekend at Schwagstock.

"I'm not aware of any other festival venue other than perhaps Woodstock where that could happen," Callahan says with a laugh. "I wasn't there — although I wish I were — but Woodstock was a one-time phenomenon. These [Schwagstocks] were occurring four or five times a year. This was more of a business."

Photograph by Jennifer Silverberg

Location Info

Map

Zoe Campground & Amphitheater

Highway 19 at Sinking Creek
Salem, MO 65560

Category: Music Venues

Region: Outstate MO

Of course, nobody really has a handle on the volume of drugs that are bought and sold each year at music festivals. Callahan's unspoken message is that law enforcement can stomach thousands of pot-smoking, acid-eating freaks running wild for a weekend so long as they keep to themselves and buckle their seat belts on the way out of town. But if the same bearded hippie flouts the rules all summer long, beware the long arm of the law.


Tebeau's case is not the first time federal prosecutors have used the so-called Crack House Statute to target the owner of a music venue. The law, broadly drafted to criminalize properties maintained "for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing, or using a controlled substance," dates back to the mid-1980s, but it was amended in 2002 at the urging of then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden. Hysteria surrounding crack cocaine faded years before. Ecstasy and rave parties were the new battles in the drug war.

In 2001 federal prosecutors tried to use the Crack House Statute against a trio of New Orleans club owners who frequently hosted raves at their venue, claiming the men "knew that drugs were being used and distributed at their raves but did nothing to prevent it." The club owners agreed to a settlement, later blocked through appeal, which banned glow sticks and similar items at their events. That same year a jury in Florida refused to convict two nightclub owners accused of profiting from drug use and raves at their venue.

In response, Biden introduced the Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy (RAVE) Act, which was, he explained, intended to tweak the Crack House Statute so that it could be applied to "rogue promoters who were knowingly using property episodically or on a one-time basis for illegal drug purposes."

The Crack House Statute was already unpopular with civil libertarians because it allowed prosecutors to punish business owners for the offenses of others. When Biden sought to target a specific subset of music fans and venues, the outcry was swift and forceful.

"Put most simply, the federal government should return to the task of identifying and stopping illegal drug activity, whether it occurs at a rave or elsewhere," Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Policy Litigation Project, testified before Congress. "The government must not allow for harassment or punishment of innocent business owners who are unable to guarantee absolutely that drug use will not occur on their property."

The RAVE Act was defeated, but nearly identical language was later inserted as an amendment to another bill. Police, prosecutors and the public gradually lost interest in raves, however, and the law was not successfully applied until the DEA set its sights on Schwagstock.

After pleading guilty, Tebeau took his case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to argue that the law didn't apply to a music festival. The lower court's ruling was upheld.

"I think there was a lot of pressure in this case, because I'm sure there were a lot of people who didn't like that festival in their neck of the woods," says Tebeau's lawyer, St. Louis-based defense attorney Scott Rosenblum. "I can't really say anything our government does surprises me anymore, but there's no question there was a substantial amount of resources put into this case. To some extent it's a scary type of case in terms, I guess, of how far they're going to go to apply [the Crack House Statute]."

Callahan says there were serious discussions among law-enforcement officials about whether Tebeau could or should be held accountable for people buying and selling drugs on his property.

"We had to wrestle with issues of whether it made him criminally responsible or not," the federal prosecutor says. "We wanted to be careful not to cross the line so that we were going after a music festival simply because of what a minority of patrons were doing.

"[This] doesn't serve as a warning to major music festival sites that are sincerely trying to operate within the law," Callahan emphasizes. "I'm sure you can go to a Willie Nelson concert and smell the aroma of marijuana, but I don't think his concert is promoting the sale of drugs."

The fact that prosecutors used asset forfeiture to confiscate Tebeau's property — the land upon which he lived with his wife and two young children — still rubs some people the wrong way. Mike Cullen, Tebeau's neighbor at Camp Zoe who helped out with groundskeeping, wonders why authorities chose to bust Tebeau rather than the actual drug dealers.

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