Drug War

Should Concert Promoters Go to Jail if Audience Members Do Drugs?


Via Jeff A. Taylor's Tumblr comes news that Jimmy Tebeau, the founder of a Missouri-based rock festival known as "Schwagstock," is starting a 30-month sentence in the slammer. His crime? Running concerts at which drug use and sales was prevalent.

"We didn't view this as a music-festival prosecution," says Richard Callahan, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. "We viewed it as somebody who was using a festival site to promote illegal drug sales and profit off of that. We thought there was a difference between a music festival with incidental drug use and a drug festival with incidental music. We believe in this case it was the latter rather than the former."…

Tebeau says he paid more than $200,000 in tax revenue to Shannon County over the years but that his relationship with local law enforcement was always adversarial. He claims the Shannon County sheriff told him he couldn't spare officers to patrol Schwagstock, and he says the state highway patrol rebuffed his request for assistance, as well, opting instead to set up roadside checkpoints and hassle drivers going to and from Camp Zoe.

Tebeau, who plays in a Grateful Dead cover band, is precisely the sort of guy who is enough on the margins that he was a likely target. A Grateful Dead cover band! Ha ha, what was that dirty stinking hippie thinking! Of course, he's going to be arrested!

In truth, his prosecution under the so-called Crack House Statute and eventual plea bargain, is an appalling waste of time, money, and most of all, human life.

Read the whole thing, especially the ways in which promoters of larger and more-drugged-out festivals such as Bonnaroo manage to keep things cool with the cops.

Past Reason coverage of this case.

Read Jeff Taylor's massive Reason archive and follow him on the Twitter.

And watch Ravers vs. The Man, a Reason TV doc about California's stupid reactions to a thriving youth-music scene.

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  1. I’m trying to think of a concert I went to where no one used drugs.


    I’m drawing a blank.

    1. Your children’s elementary school recitals?

      Granted, having to listen to that sort of “music” might make people want to take drugs, but I doubt anybody there would actually be using drugs.

      1. I’ll bet there’d be some flasks, and probably some benzos or opiate-based pain killers at most of them.

        1. Vicodin almost certainly

        2. Three or four fingers of kahlua in the cardboard Starbucks cup. You need the caffiene to stay awake.

      2. My kid is only three.

      3. Your children’s elementary school recitals?

        You kidding? Little Jimmy was my dealer.

  2. It’s like jailing a landlord because their tenants are crackheads.

    Logic…how the fuck does it work?

    1. If a landlord refuses to rent to people because the landlord believes they’re crackheads, then the landlord can be taken to court for discrimination, and if the landlord rents to crackheads, then he can be taken to court for providing a place for people to use drugs.

      Catch 22 much?

    2. Or seizing property from a landlord, because they rented it to a medical marijuana dispensary!

    3. Or seizing a family-owned motel because people have been busted doing drugs in it.

  3. Should Presidents go to jail if their subordinates harass political opponents, snoop on their phone calls, and make up phony stories about the deaths of fellow-employees?

    So sorry for changing the subject, let’s get back to the question of criminal liability for concert promoters – the Republic would collapse if they weren’t sent to prison!

  4. Should blog post headlines be framed as rhetorical questions?

  5. I must have gone to the wrong raves in my youth. The girls then tended to wear baggy jeans and sweatshirts. I did go to a weekend camping rave that got broken up the first night after someone tried to sell smack to the campsite owner’s wife.

    1. Maybe you just lived in the wrong place. Lots of tanktops/babydoll shirts over the big jeans in my late ’90s rave scene.

  6. If I was smart, I would have skipped the whole punk thing and gone straight to the dance/electronica. Girls here in the punk scene were pretty rare (and fought over).

  7. From the video: “We found out early on, that constitutionally you can’t ban a type of music…”

  8. I’m always surprised that the local yokel cops and prosecutors don’t try to bust more people at Bonnaroo every year. That county seems to realize that Bonnaroo is a huge moneymaker and that it’s best to keep hands-off. The biggest danger at Bonnaroo (besides sunstroke and choking on dust) has been local miscreants breaking in and stealing stuff from campers’ tents.

  9. From the article:

    “The government possessed overwhelming evidence that he at least tacitly allowed certain drugs to be bought and sold at Schwagstock (marijuana, hallucinogens and ecstasy were allegedly OK, while crack, meth, heroin and others were off-limits) and profited handsomely from the popularity of his festival as a result.”

    This is the problem right here. Jimmy screwed himself when he(allegedly) told his security staff to focus on hard drugs. It was a very cool thing for him to do, but a big no-no when you’re running a festival. If he would have hired a bunch of incompetent security staff and told them to look for everything he would have been fine.

    1. Probably also would have helped to not call it “Schwagstock”.

      I can’t help but believe the State is probably right about the “prevalence” of drugs being more or less intentional.

      The drug war is stupid, and that’s the problem here; the problem is not “oppressing concert operators because someone used a drug” or “taking a hotel because there’s no way to stop someone from eventually committing a crime there”.

  10. Who would see a movie, based on “The Purge”, in which everyone is free, for one night a year, to commit crimes on US Attorneys?

    1. Yeah, the idea that people would commit indiscriminate crimes is a real plot hole. I have a huge better dead list prioritized already. With a private jet, I’ll bet I could hit my top 3-17 depending on the rioting in DC.

  11. “We viewed it as somebody who was using a festival site to promote illegal drug sales and profit off of that. We thought there was a difference between a music festival with incidental drug use and a drug festival with incidental music. We believe in this case it was the latter rather than the former.”…

    I believe a person such as this prosecutor is likely to display a propensity to engage in sexual depravities with barnyard animals.

  12. “And watch Ravers vs. The Man, a Reason TV doc about California’s stupid reactions to a thriving youth-music scene.”

    This is very fucking old.

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