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Sunday, December 27, 2015

USA - "Un"-civil asset forfeiture: Whatever happened to Camp Zoe?

Camp Zoe Follow-up
Camp Zoe is now a state park. Jimmy Tebeau lost it all. Is released from prison and back playing in Schwag.

Civil asset forfeiture is a really fancy name for sleazy thievery by government. It potentially effects all of us in one way or another. This is a follow-up about Camp Zoe.

Back in 2010 or 2011, I told you all about the raid at Camp Zoe in which a 373 acre campground / concert venue in Missouri was seized during a concert weekend, under asset forfeiture laws by agencies covering just about all the letters in the alphabet soup from DEA to local PD. In addition to seizing the owners land, they also seized his bank accounts, and gate receipt cash so he could pay the bands and workers, even though the owner himself didn't buy or sell any drugs, making it difficult to hire attorneys.

I've been checking for news about Camp Zoe and its' owner from time to time. It appears the story of Camp Zoe is coming to an end. The owner was incarcerated, but is now out, and back with his Grateful Dead tribute band, The Schwag. The confiscated property that the government stole was sold to the state (no money going to the real owner) which is using $54M of taxpayer money to put up parking lots and buildings and concrete and such in order to take away its' natural appeal and make it more appealing to people who are "more acceptable" than the hippies.

There is a lot of information out there on the internet about it. I think the best place to start finding out more about Camp Zoe is the local news article written just after the property was seized in 2010, and there's a short documentary about it also.

Another Follow-up:

Roger Christie released to halfway house.

Roger is the minister and founder of the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry which used cannabis and cannabis oil as a sacrament as part of religious services. The church was raided several years ago and Roger was incarcerated awaiting trial for quite a long time. The federal judge claimed he was a danger to the community so they denied him bail even though he is the epitome of pacifist. He was finally sent to a halfway house just a few months ago to await official release which was scheduled for this week. And, sure enough, in addition to denying him a speed trial and religious freedom, I believe they seized all his funds early on, so, like Jimmy Tebeau, he was also short on funds to hire the best attorneys. 


Camp Zoe, Site of Schwagstock, Facing Seizure After Drug Investigation

Posted By  on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm

A snapshot of the Schwagstock crowd. - IMAGE VIA CAMPZOE.COM
  • Image via
  • A snapshot of the Schwagstock crowd.
Update, Friday, November 12, 2 p.m.: Click here to read our follow-up post with comments from Jimmy Tebeau's attorney and more explanation of the asset forfeiture process.
(Original post below.)
The DEA, Missouri State Highway Patrol and U.S. Attorney's Office are trying to seize Camp Zoe, a 350-acre campground in central Missouri that hosts the music gathering Schwagstock -- after a four-year-long investigation allegedly uncovered rampant drug use and sales on the property.

According to a complaint filed November 8 in Eastern Missouri District Court, "over the past several years law enforcement agents have specifically observed the open sales of cocaine, marijuana, LSD (acid), ecstasy, psilocybin mushrooms, opium and marijuana-laced food products by individuals attending the music festival and made multiple undercover purchases of illegal drugs."

The paperwork shows that the authorities hope to use a mechanism called asset forfeiture to take the property. Under a forfeiture, they would not need to convict the property's owners of a crime -- or even charge them with one. The burden of proof is much lower.

The Camp Zoe property is located about 150 miles southwest of St. Louis near the town of Salem. It is owned and operated by Jimmy Tebeau, a member of the local Grateful Dead tribute bandThe Schwag. The complaint alleges that Tebeau -- who has not been charged with a crime -- and other Camp Zoe staff members were "in the immediate area" when the drug deals went down and "took no immediate action to prevent the activity."

Tebeau has not returned calls seeking comment on the government's claims. Joe Grasso, the booking agent for The Schwag, declined to comment. Grasso says his contract expired and he is no longer the band's booking agent.

According to the Camp Zoe website, Tebeau purchased the land, took up residence there, and started hosting the Schwagstock festivals in spring of 2004. The camp has also been the site of the Pagan Spirit Gathering, the Bluegrass Jam, Biker rallies and Gateway Burners, a gathering similar to Burning Man.
    Schwagstock 45 was held earlier this year on September 17 and 18. The complaint reveals that "undercover purchases have been made as recently as September, 2010" but also says the investigation stretches all the way back to 2006 and includes evidence from "surveillance, undercover operations, source information, bank records, and interviews."

    Asset forfeiture, according to the Department of Justice website, "enhances public safety and security," by "removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals and their associates to perpetuate their criminal activity against our society."

    In other words, if someone's car, home, or other assets are used to commit a crime, the DEA and other law enforcement agencies have the power to confiscate that property. They can then auction those items off and use the proceeds to fund their budgets. The complaint filed earlier this week says the Camp Zoe property has an approximate value of $600,000.

    Since Tebeau himself has not been charged with a crime, the Camp Zoe case falls under the category of "civil forfeiture." That means the before the court issues a "certificate of forfeiture" to make things official, the government has to show a "preponderance of evidence" that the property was part of criminal activity.

    In Tebeau's case, the U.S. Attorney's office alleges that Camp Zoe was "knowingly opened, rented, leased, used, or maintained for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using controlled substances."

    We will have much more on this story as it develops, so check Daily RFT for updates.
    Camp Zoe Complaint