Jimmy Tebeau and the Camp Zoe Civil Asset Forfeiture Blues

In the early morning hours of November 1st 2010 the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and the Missouri Highway Patrol in conjunction with several federal and local law enforcement agencies conducted a raid of Camp Zoe, the site of Schwagstock events since 2004 and the home of Jimmy Tebeau and his family, Tebeau is the bass player, front man and founding member of The Schwag.

The DEA and Missouri Highway Patrol carried out the raid after a four-year investigation, beginning in 2006 using undercover agents, into alleged drug us and sales on the camp site, assisted by the IRS, Homeland Security, Rolla and Salem police departments, and accompanied by officers in hazmat suits, the agencies conducted a thorough search of the camp site which yielded no illicit substances.


While the investigation into the alleged criminal activity was going on at the campsite the Missouri Highway Patrol conducted some 14 roadblock “safety checkpoints” starting in 2007, a highway patrol spokesperson states that these roadblocks did not pertain to the investigation but they did time them to coincide with Schwagstock events. These “safety checkpoints” where located at a busy intersection six miles north of the camp at Route 19 and Highway A; Route 19 being the main road that leads to the entrance of the campsite.

Dan Viets, a member of Tebeau’s defense team and Missouri based attorney, estimates some 80 federal agents took place in the raid and where “backed up by local cops who came onto the property with federal subpoenas,” he reports. “They basically asked for business records, which they got” adding, “they did (not) find so much as a roach” during the search, although law enforcement did confiscate “gate receipt money” that was “not already deposited in the bank” according to Camp Zoe’s home page.

According to Tebeau’s lawyers he “tried to nip any drug situation in the bud” by contacting Shannon County’s Deputies, says Emmett McAuliffe, an attorney working on Tebeau’s case. “He actually invited local deputies to come and be security guards in the camp. Any bust would have been easy pickings in there if there was a big problem — but they never took him up on that.”

The department did not have the resources to patrol Camp Zoe and additional security was not necessary says Chief Deputy Dewayne Skaggs of the Shannon County Sheriff’s Office. “If they needed us, we were right around the corner and they knew we could respond. That security staff did a really good job — or a decent job — at maintaining their own place.” Skaggs went on to say, “For the most part, they handled it internally, and we never had a lot of problems. I think the biggest problem was trespassers.”

“That’s not something we’d typically do,” said Sgt. Marty Elmore, spokesperson for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, when asked by the River Front Times about the highway patrol providing security at Camp Zoe. Going on to say ”If we believe that a particular location has an inordinate amount of that kind of [drug] activity and thousands of people present in a small concentration, we’ll be hesitant to send a couple troopers in there by themselves, simply because of the gross disparity in number of folks. We’re not going to send them into the lion’s den.”

The following week on Monday November 8 the “United States of America, by and through its attorneys, Richard G Callahan, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri and Julia M. Wright, Assistant United States Attorney” filed a Verified Complaint of Forfeiture in said District to seize the property known as Camp Zoe and the associated funds through civil asset forfeiture by accusing Tebeau of creating the camp for the specific intent of facilitating criminal activity in the form of illicit drug transactions.

Civil asset forfeiture is the confiscation of assets alleged as the proceeds of criminal activities or alleged instruments by which crime is committed brought about by either state or federal prosecutors. Regardless of whether it is the state or the federal government filing for the forfeiture the burden of proof is far less than in criminal cases. In criminal cases the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt”, or that no reasonable person could have a reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused, while in civil cases the prosecutor is held to a lesser standard of evidence known as a “preponderance of the evidence”, or that the proposition put forward by the prosecutor about the defendant’s guilt is more likely true than it is more likely not true.

There are two key difference between Missouri and the federal government’s laws concerning asset forfeiture, one is Missouri prosecutors must file a criminal case in conjunction with the asset seizure where the federal prosecutors need only bring the civil charges to confiscate property, monies, and other holdings from a defendant. Another key difference is that under Missouri statutes any proceeds generated from asset forfeiture must go to the School Building Revolving Fund whereas with the federal statutes the proceeds go to the law enforcement agencies involved in bringing about the civil action.

If the government wins the civil case against Tebeau then the property and money, valued at 600,000 for the land and the 188,000 in a frozen bank account would go to the DEA who would then auction off the property to the highest bidder keeping approximately 20 percent of the profit from the sales of the property and the seized funds, then through a mechanism known as “equitable sharing” the DEA would give the Missouri Highway Patrol the remainder of the proceeds.

Conversely if it where the state perusing the charges in this case and not the DEA any proceeds’ resulting from the assets seized in civil court would go into Missouri’s School Building Revolving Fund, which Missouri implemented in 1998 in response too nationwide reports of law enforcement’s abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws brought about by the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which, for the first time, allowed federal agencies to share proceeds with local law enforcement, this lead to drastic increases of asset forfeiture nationwide, which, jumped 1,500 percent between 1985 and 1991 from 27 million to 644 million reaching 1 billion annually by 1996.

In 2009 Missouri state auditor reports show that confiscations of assets reached 5.6 million dollars, of that 49% (2.7 million) went to the federal government with approximately 80% (around 2.1 million) going to Missouri law enforcement agencies while the School Building Revolving Fund received 30,673 dollars from seized asset proceeds. Nationally the proceeds from asset forfeiture have reached 3 billion dollars annually making this a profitable source of revenue for law enforcement agencies at all levels while locally it circumvents safety measures put in place by the state of Missouri to remove financial incentives from drug interdiction and the corruption that follows to protect the citizens from such abuses of power.

Commentary

Clearly this is a case of a property owner, entrepreneur and family man pursuing his vision of the American Dream, while at the same time bringing economic and tax revenues to his community who took the initiative by reaching out to the Shannon County Sheriff’s office in an attempt to establish a professional relationship but was turned down only to have the Missouri Highway Patrol and the DEA sidestep the School Building Revolving Fund, that Missouri put in place to protect citizens of this great state such as Mr. Tebeau from state and federal government corruption, in order to seize what they call the “lion’s den” to increase forfeiture profits and extend their authority at this man’s expense.

This so called “lion’s den” is simply Camp Zoe, the site of counter culture music festivals celebrating the communal and naturalist aspects of the hippie lifestyle but with any place were large numbers of people congregate for music or other similar events the use and sales of illicit substances, of all types, will occur and Jimmy Tebeau as a business owner and member of the community tried to work with local law enforcement to establish a working arrangement to provide an additional level of security at the Schwagstock festivals. His request to work with law enforcement denied, as Chief Deputy Dewayne Skaggs relays, on the premise that the county Sheriff’s office lacked the resources and that it was not necessary due to trespassers being the worst problem.

The lack of resources may well be true Shannon County has an estimated population of less than 9,000 people, but his second premise that trespassers were the worst problem is in direct contrast with Sargent Marty Elmore’s equation of the camp site as a “lion’s den.” Which is it law enforcement, your all working with the same laws pertaining to illicit substances set forth by Richard Nixon stating that they are “public enemy number one” as he declared total war in 1971 on “dangerous drugs”. Is it a benign campground with good-to-adequate security or is it a bazaar solely established by Tebeau to perpetuate the assault on America by our public enemy number one? The fact that the authorities found no drugs on the property known as Camp Zoe and are now taking the easy litigious route of asset forfeiture and its lax evidentiary standards known as “preponderance of the evidence” indicates that the Sheriff’s estimation of it being a camp ground with the normal security concerns as closer to the truth and reality.

The next contradiction needing addressed is Sargent Elmore’s statement when asked about Highway Patrol officers providing security at Schwagstock events were he says, “We’re not going to send them into the lion’s den.” Does it pose any less danger to undercover officers who often work cases as clandestine operatives with no “back up” or support from their agencies at Schwagstock festivals or is it that the dangers posed to the plain clothed officers providing security with no profit is far greater than the risks posed to undercover officers when the agency stands to garner hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit? Is it a cost benefit risk assessment at this point in the decision making process? If this is the case then it makes sense to bring in or work with the DEA to avoid paying the money to the School Building Revolving Fund and at the same time fleece all the funds you can from the patrons of Schwagstock by conducting roadblock “safety checks” correlated with the festivals.

It appears that no matter what efforts Jimmy Tebeau took or could take as a landowner and businessperson to work with law enforcement to establish a professional relationship stood a chance when state and federal law enforcement considered Camp Zoe, a retreat of peace and tranquility for a sub sect of our society, as a haven for lawlessness and criminal enterprise. Certainly, this stems from the stereotypes thrust upon the hippie lift style and its festival music scene, in part because of cannabis’ currently illicit status, that the DEA and Missouri Highway Patrol will continue to use those prejudices to justify and vilify Camp Zoe as a “lion’s den” and Jimmy Tebeau as a king of the lions.

Another crucial point needing addressed is Richard Nixon’s refusal to heed the advice of then Gov. Raymond Shafer of Pennsylvania the head of his Schaffer Commission when he stated that “neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety,” and the committees resulting recommendations that “the possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration (no money), or insignificant remuneration (very little money) no longer be an offense.” Instead of listening to reason, Nixon persisted and now we have forty years’ worth of failed policies that persecute and prosecute cannabis consumers of every lifestyle, age, race, creed, color, gender, and economic status. Until we band together and take action to end cannabis prohibition that is fought through the “War on Drugs” none of us are safe, let alone free.

In retrospect naming your band The Schwag, in what one can speculate to be an insider’s reference to the band being the “schwag” version of The Grateful Dead taken from a term for commercial grades of cannabis, was not the wise long-term choice considering law enforcement’s views and the laws pertaining to cannabis but that is not the point here, the point is that a legitimate business man who reached out to his counties law enforcement was denied assistance only to have our state and federal agencies put his and his families livelihood and future at stake because the federal government is baiting our state government with prospects of proceeds strung from a stick held by a string to entice our state agencies into aiding the DEA in their quest to increase their coffers and the extent of their powers at the behest of their overseer’s at the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the expense of Jimmy Tebeau.

Just a Thought

When the pen’s use is to liberate the people it is mightier than the sword, when the pen’s use is as a sword that might turns to oppress the people.

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About TriXteR Phillips

Founder and Jack-of-all-Trades at Stand Up and Speak Out a volunteer organization devoted to providing the public with safe, legal, and supportive events on 4-20 to help bring public attention to the need to end cannabis prohibition for all humanity. Founder, Admin, Blogger, and Jack-of-all-Trades at TriXteR Phillips: A Poison Thorn in Prohibition's Side.
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2 Responses to Jimmy Tebeau and the Camp Zoe Civil Asset Forfeiture Blues

  1. Dave Mowers says:

    This whole case just makes me so mad I want to smash something, anything I can reach. America, land of the free; yeah sure.

    • Dave- It is understandable to feel frustrated and even angry at situations such as these, I know I feel that ways a lot. The best thing I found one can do in this situation is to become active within the legalization movement. If you are already involved become more active.

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