The St. Louis Riverfront Times cover story this week tells the horrible and frightening tale of Schwagstock founder and Grateful Dead cover band musician Jimmy Tebeau, who was sentenced to federal prison not for any drugs he bought, used or sold – but for the drug usage of the people who attended his festival.
For simply being the venue owner, federal agents have ruined the 45-year-old’s life and put him in prison for the next 30 months.
The RFT has covered Tebeau’s story for years now, and point out that the feds tried to stick anything on Tebeau, finally settling on a little-known charge of “maintaining a drug-involved premises.” The law was originally written to go after scum landlords who rent out to crack dealers, they point out.
And while it’s no surprise that marijuana and psychedelic drugs often go hand-in-hand with jambands, the U.S. Attorney in charge of the case says they were shocked by the blatant and open use.
“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.”
The charges aren’t just bad for Tebeau, but possibly for the entire concert industry. If the feds really wanted to do so, they could shut down any event for finding so much as one illegal roach on someone.
“Club owners should be fearful,” Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, says in the report. “There is precedent of government overreach with this statute, implicating core First [and Fifth]Amendment concerns.”
Click over to the Riverfront Times for the entire story on how a local music icon and festival circuit hero is getting the shaft simply because some feds got frustrated and needed someone to blame.