The federal government has finally brought charges against Jimmy Tebeau, the musician who owns Camp Zoe, which the government is currently attempting to take through civil forfeiture. The case looks like thin gruel. Saint Louis’ River Front Times reports:
The 44-year-old Cape Girardeau resident faces a single felony count of “operating premises for the facilitation of illegal drug use,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
On its face, that appears to be a highly unusual charge for a land owner/music promoter. It neither alleges that Tebeau himself sold illegal drugs nor used them personally — and appears to discount the festivals’ music and entertainment value almost entirely.
As the prosecutors’ press release summarizes, “According to the allegations in the indictment, Tebeau consciously managed the concerts and campground for the specific purpose of facilitating the distribution and use of multiple controlled substances by the concert patrons.”
Note that language: They’re not just saying the drug sales happened. They’re saying such sales were the entire point of Tebeau’s undertaking. Not his love of jam bands or camping fun — but the “distribution of multiple controlled substances.”
That is completely absurd. Tebeau is a musician who bought that land to use as his primary venue. He played scores of shows at Camp Zoe and hosted dozens more with musical acts ranging from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic to Los Lobos, the Roots, and the Marshall Tucker Band. During the summer it was one of the larger venues for live music in the state of Missouri. Like any music venue with thousands of attendees, drug use occurred there, but to say that Tebeau held all these events purely to allow drugs use to take place is an extraordinary claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and considering that the U.S. attorney is not charging Tebeau with the possession or sale of any drugs, I doubt the government has it.
Instead, I think the government may be using this charge to force Tebeau to acquiesce in the fight to keep Camp Zoe. The U.S. attorney could offer to drop the criminal charges against Tebeau and in exchange Tebeau would not fight the forfeiture. Even if the criminal case is not a strong one, it will eat up a great deal of Tebeau’s time and resources, so the prosecutor may be hoping that Tebeau would rather fold and move on with his life. Although this amounts to extortion, this practice is legal and police often coerce citizens into singing away their legal right to property through so-called “forfeiture waivers.” This is precisely how police in Tenaha, Texas shook down passing motorists until a lawsuit forced them to end the practice.
These goon squad tactics have no place in any justice system worthy of the name, and I hope Tebeau will not be intimated by them.