Jimmy Tebeau's Lawyer Moves to Dismiss Charges

Jimmy Tebeau's lawyer wants the feds to dismiss the charges against him.
Jimmy Tebeau's lawyer wants the feds to dismiss the charges against him.
Attorneys for musician/concert impresario Jimmy Tebeau -- who currently faces felony charges alleging he ran a 350-acre campground in rural Missouri for the purpose of facilitating the sale of illegal drugs -- have filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case against him.

The motion was filed in federal court Monday. In it, attorney Gilbert Sison of Rosenblum, Schwartz, Rogers & Glass, outlines for the first time Tebeau's defense to the indictment against him.

Among the arguments made in the four-page motion:

* Prosecutors are seeking to convict Tebeau by arguing that attendees at the Schwagstock festivals, held on Tebeau's Camp Zoe property, sold, distributed and used illegal drugs on an "open and widespread basis." But while they claim Tebeau was aware of such activity, they don't allege that he was personally involved in any such transactions.

* And that could be a problem. Under the statutes used to charge Tebeau, which were originally intended to go after the owners of crackhouses, the government "must prove that Tebeau knowingly made his property (Camp Zoe) available for use for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing or using a controlled substance," Sison writes. And, as Sison writes, that means it is insufficient to show that the attendees had an illegal purpose -- Tebeau himself must be shown to have it. The government has failed to proffer any such evidence, Sison writes.

* Interpreting the statute in a way that holds Tebeau accountable for attendees' illegal purposes would be unconstitutionally vague -- a violation of the Fifth Amendment.

* It could also trigger First Amendment concerns. "If the Government's interpretation stands, the only sure way for concert and music promoters to avoid liability under the statute would be to not hold such concerts or music festivals at all," he writes. In fact, Tebeau stopped holding Schwagstock festivals after being slapped with the indictment: "This represents an impermissible infringment on Tebeau's First Amendment rights and the rights of others to hold similar types of music festivals or concerts."

Then-RFT staff writer Keegan Hamilton explored the concerns of other music promoters in light of Tebeau's legal troubles in a piece last year. His cover story about the case is also online here.

The feds originally moved to seize the Camp Zoe property, alleging rampant drug use gave them the right to take it via a process called asset forfeiture. It was only months later -- after facing criticism from civil libertarians that the asset forfeiture process was being abused -- that they obtained a federal indictment against him.

Tebeau's indictment recently drew coverage from the Wall Street Journal, which seemed to share the skepticism of those who've questioned the case. As the paper notes, "Under federal law, a property owner can face 20 years in prison if prosecutors can prove the owner knowingly allowed illegal drugs to be used or sold on his premises--even if he isn't directly involved. ...Defenders of Mr. Tebeau say his case is an example of government overreach, given the ubiquitous use of drugs at many music concerts."

We'll have more on this case as it develops, including federal prosecutors' response to Tebeau's motion to dismiss, so stay tuned.

Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of the RFT and its sister papers. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and continues to host its Legal Roundtable, as well participating as an occasional panelist on Nine PBS' Donnybrook. She lives in St. Louis.
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