"It's a terrible thing to think that the government could just march in and take someone's money, take someone's property ... They can't blame the property owner just because some people who are present break the law any more than they can blame the city because crimes take place in city parks. That obviously would be fundamentally unfair."To the end, Tebeau maintained his innocence — he reluctantly took a plea bargain only because he was facing nine years in prison.
The government isn't just trying to seize Camp Zoe. The feds also froze Tebeau's assets, including more than $188,000 in a personal bank account.
"They took all of his money," Viets says. "Whether they get to keep it is another matter, but they seized it. It is incredible what the federal government can do to people or a business based merely on allegations with no evidence whatsoever. When they take all your money, it's pretty hard to hire a lawyer. They know that, and they're depriving a citizen or a business owner of his right to counsel."
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. The plea agreement explicitly states that the government could not prove Tebeau himself ever bought or sold drugs.
Prosecutors say the circumstances of the case are unique, but civil-liberties advocates warn that targeting a musician and venue owner sets an ominous precedent for festivals and concert sites nationwide. Tebeau is believed to be the first artist or festival organizer ever imprisoned for widespread drug use at a music festival.
"Club owners should be fearful," says Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group working to reform American drug laws. "There is precedent of government overreach with this statute, implicating core First [and Fifth] Amendment concerns."
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