The Missouri Constitution may bar the feds from seizing musician Jimmy Tebeau's real property, a think-talk lawyer told St. Louis Public Radio yesterday.
We here at Daily RFT
sometimes feel like voices crying in the wilderness as we question the feds' attempts to seize Camp Zoe
-- the 350-acre farm in rural Missouri used for Schwagstock and other music festivals.
Claiming that drug use was rampant on the property, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the U.S. Attorney's Office here began attempts to seize the property last month using a process called asset forfeiture. Former RFT
staff writer Keegan Hamilton (now with our sister paper, the Seattle Weekly) outlined numerous problems with that process in a series of blog posts
But we're not really alone. Yesterday, St. Louis Public Radio also devoted some time to the Camp Zoe seizure in its Legal Roundtable
. Leading KWMU's discussion was host Don Marsh; the point man on the Camp Zoe issue was David Roland, director of litigation for the Freedom Center of Missouri.
In the discussion, Roland outlined many of the points that Hamilton has made in blog posts, including the fact that Missouri law enforcement is using the federal, rather than state, asset forfeiture process. The state process, he explained, does not allow law enforcement to seize assets unless the owner has first been convicted of a crime; federal law has no such safeguards. Also, Roland added, the feds "kick back proceeds to state law enforcement agencies," while state law requires that proceeds go to fund public schools.
But Roland also mentioned something we didn't know. Apparently, he explained, Missouri's constitution expressly bars an "estate" from being subject to forfeiture. Law enforcement can (and does) seize "cars, guns, and cash," but the process is "rarely used against real property. The Missouri Constitution does not tolerate attempts to claim real estate," Roland said.
Roland mentioned that he's been in touch with lawyers for Jimmy Tebeau, the musician who owns Camp Zoe. And while he's not directly involved with the case at this point, he says he sees great potential for a test case. "I would love to be able to advance constitutional claims on this," he told host Marsh.
You can click on Windows Media or download the MP3 file here
to listen to the whole thing. The Camp Zoe discussion starts in the second minute and continues for roughly five minutes.