Welcome to the Arcane World of Asset Forfeiture!

Posted: November 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

The DEA and the Missouri Highway Patrol are attempting to seize a large tract of land in central Missouri known as Camp Zoe. Zoe is owned by Jimmy Tebeau, front man for the Schwag, the band that gives name to the Schwagstock festivals held on the property several times a year. (Full disclosure: I have camped at Zoe numerous times, both for Schwagstocks and private gatherings of friends.) The DEA and highway patrol allege that Tebeau knowingly allowed people to sell drugs on the property, but Tebeau has not been charged with any crime. However, that’s not necessary because under the rules of civil asset forfeiture, it is the property–not the person, who has all sorts of troublesome rights–that is charged with the crime.

This procedure is rooted in medieval superstition–essentially, people believed that property used to commit a crime was haunted–and biases the outcome in the government’s favor in a number of ways. First and foremost, in a civil case the government can win with a preponderance of the evidence as opposed to the much higher burden of a reasonable doubt necessary to convict a person of a crime. Also, since there is no person on trial, the owner has no Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and anything he says could be used later if criminal charges are ever brought.

Under Missouri state law this seizure would be impossible because Missouri requires the owner to be convicted of a related felony before the property can be forfeited to the state, but since the feds are involved that minor detail becomes unnecessary. The Missouri Highway Patrol also stands to profit handsomely from pursuing forfeiture at the federal level instead of the state level should they be successful. That’s because under the rules of equitable sharing, the federal agency will kick back up to 80% of the proceeds from the forfeiture, which assuming Zoe sold at its $600,000 assessed value, would give the highway patrol up to $480,000. On the other hand, property forfeited through Missouri state law must be given to a state fund for school construction to remove any incentive for police to enrich themselves by stealing property, but the federal government has given them an easy way of working around the obvious intent of state forfeiture reforms.

Finally, I wonder how much property the feds could seize under the rationale that drugs are produced or sold on them. I think we can safely include every venue ever played by the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, the Flaming Lips, Government Mule, Phish, and Moe, among others. Furthermore, even land already owned by the federal government would not seem to be immune. Rainbow gatherings are held regularly on National Forest land and the Black Rock Desert where Burning Man is held is federal property, and I don’t think anyone can credibly claim the government doesn’t know what sort illicit activities occur at these events. Simply put, if these are the standards, massive amounts of private property is subject to seizure anytime the DEA decides to investigate.

Update: I wrote a new post detailing how you can help stop the government from taking Camp Zoe and prevent similar incidents in the future, which you can read here.

Update II: I edited this entry and added a paragraph along with a sentence here and there and posted it to The Lesson Applied, another blog I write for from time to time. The new material mostly shows that asset forfeiture distracted the police from enforcing the laws they are supposedly trying to uphold. (I think those particular laws are stupid, but the police don’t–or at least claim not to). I promise I will continue to cover this story as it develops.

  1. jay says:

    This is totally ridiculous! For one I thought this was supposed to be america! Not a communist ran greedy as* government that has greedy a** enforcment agencies! This is just an easy way for power tripping individuals, that do not understand our relaxed, care free lifestyle, and choose to want to destroy it because they are jealous and unhappy with themselves! This is not about stopping any type of drug use, or movement, its about disrupting a society that is building and showing forward progress! They just want an easy way to get publicity and their pockets greased! How about they just back off and tend to all the murders and rapists that still roam free! If they put this much effort into catching them as they do to try and punish the peaceful hippie culture, our country might be better off then!

  2. This story is so sad! I can’t think of a worse case scenerio and How does anyone fight the asset stealing feds?
    I for one am Totally disgusted at the sheer magnitude of injustice in this case. WOW !!
    I hope for the best for the schwag family!!!
    Stay Up people!!

    yer pal stever

  3. Jay, you are absolutely correct: the DEA is actively trying to destroy a culture that they disapprove of, and it is monstrously evil.

    And, Stephen, what we can do is pressure our elected officials to get rid of civil asset forfeiture. Call your representative and tell him or her that the government shouldn’t be able to seize private property unless the owner is convicted of a felony involving that property. At the state and local levels, Missouri and its counties and municipalities should reduce the budgets of any law enforcement in exact proportion to the amount of money they receive through forfeiture. If the police are going to be allowed to steal your property, at the very least they shouldn’t be able to profit from it. I am going to flesh these ideas out more in another post very soon.

  4. Laura says:

    So what can those of us who don’t want Zoe turned over to greedy government officials do to help? Is there some sort of protest being organized?

  5. I will write another post tonight on actions we can take to stop the forfeiture (and reform forfeiture law, in general), but for the moment, the best thing we can do is donate to a defense fund for Jimmy through Americans for Forfeiture Reform. The link for the Facebook cause is here:


    I kicked in twenty bucks and plan to donate more as time goes on.

    There will be more organized protests as this moves forward, but we are still planning these things at the moment. Rest assured, however, that I will keep you posted on these matters.

  6. Jacob says:

    If you would like to help please visit the campzoe website there is a link to help jimmy and zoe directly.

  7. rose says:

    UGH I’m so bummed!!!! Zoe is a happy place were no one fights, steals, kills, or rapes!! This is so wrong! We need to stop this people, they are trying to take away a good place to be to celebrate fellowship and create friends and to listen to some damn good music. Zoe is not a bad place… The dea should be more worried about getting dope off the streets than off a private property…. Sad sad days…. Keep your head up schwagg family!

    • Caitlin says:

      well, your first statement is a little incorrect…

      my friends and i have all had things stolen from us at Zoe, though it could all be replaced, and i’ve seen people fighting there. luckily, no one has been murdered or raped there. haha

      still, this is a tragedy and i miss Zoe terribly. it’s not fair for the property to be taken away from the Tebeau family.

  8. […] commenters on my previous post asked how they can help stop the government from stealing Camp Zoe. The most immediate need right […]

  9. Ashley says:

    There is a place where you can donate to help keep Zoe alive. The money will go to legal fees and keeping Zoe clean and the bills for her paid.It is on the front page of http://www.campzoe.com

  10. Sugar Magnolia says:

    Greedy cops….that’s what it all comes down to..money. I bet if they weren’t getting anything out of it..they wouldn’t have bothered to do anything about it. I mean seriously…no one is dumb enough to believe anywhere where music is played and large quantities of people are gathered that recreational activities that are “Illegal” won’t happen. I mean seriously…this is bullshit. Zoe is a Beautiful place where people go to get away from reality and enjoy the good vibes, the music, and the people. Keep positive Phamily, Shwappy Hagg.

  11. Ha Ha says:

    I’ve done drugs in a court room (Not kidding, it was crazy). Does that mean we can seize the court and give it to the schools?

  12. P!nkladybug says:

    Camp Zoe is the most beautiful, peaceful, place! You are all correct we have much bigger issues facing us than what goes on at a damn music festival! If only every where were like Zoe, maybe our country wouldn’t be facing half the problems we are. This is so sad! I’m definitely going to donate. My friends and I have attended quite a few times. And I can tell you, it will be a sad day to ever see it go! Better believe it will be one hell of a fight to take it as well!

  13. joe smoe says:

    so what about when a cop sells drugs to someone in a undercover sting or uses private properties to conduct drug sale or buy operations or prostitution stings? can we as a public ask to seize it since they are performing illegal activities can we have them arrested for not stopping such activities from taking place. Ppl are not others babysitters im sure there was something said or signs posted or rules mentioned that stated no illegal activities permitted ive seen at ozzfest and many other concert venues the same types of things staff not stopping smoking of pot or sales of drugs but you dont see all our venues shut down you only see this peaceful community of non violent people harrassed. Got to love america

  14. Christine says:


    I wish you the best, you were an incredible part of my early 20’s (the Blue Dixie days and then, of course later on, the Schwag) what fond memories I still hold of all of you. Although you may not remember me now, I spent plenty of time at the house off of Olive and White road… I know it was 20 some odd years ago; however the life lessons I learned from the group we hung around with still influence my life in so many ways today… Sent my donation…Hope all works out in your favor.

  15. Christine, just a heads up, this is not Jimmy’s blog. I’m a friend and well-wished, but I am not him, so if you want to send a message to him, I would imagine the Camp Zoe website would be the best venue for that. Sorry for any confusion.

  16. chase jones says:

    they just cant let people have fun because they are all losers and little dick cops that wernt cool enough to play wit the cool kids so now they all get off on raining on peoples parades i wish the worst for all of them.

  17. Emily Manzi says:

    Fuck this! There are so many corrupt people out there. To think that I live in a country where the government has the right to “seize” (seize=temporarily rob) your land and your entire personal bank account,is very sad to me. The thought of this happening has been in the back of my mind ever since I first attended Schwag, and I knew that it was almost impossible for somwthing this peaceful and amazing to go on without the feds trying to fuck it up. But to completely take all of the money rom JT’s personal account is rediculous.
    Good luck to JT and Camp Zoe.

    Hopefully this will be resolved the RIGHT way, and I can go back to camp zoe someday and celebrate.


  18. Debi Duchesne says:

    Hey to all,
    Rough Ol Boy, just so you know, I hold one college degree and am currently earning another. I have been to schwag many times with my family, and last night i spent some time emailing news networks with what is going on, since it is illegal. This morning I called the major newspapers and told them what was going on. Then I contacted Dan Viets, who is the lawyer for JT, I told the receptionist what all I had been doing. For now, the New York Times is very interested in this story, and has asked for all information related to this case. The reporter’s name is Matthew. I let the receptionsit know about it. I feel strongly that if we do not stand up for our principles, we will fall for anything. Hopefully, Mr. Viets will contact the NYC Times and this story will go national, with national exposure I beleive it will be more difficult for an illegal forfeiture and seizure. The spotlight will be on the law enforcement, both local and Federal. At this time in America, most politicans do not want to be involved in any underhanded dealings since the last election went the way it did. I would like to get together with you and discuss this further. You mentioned there would be an organized protest at some point, but we should have a speech, articulate and well prepared. Your ideas of getting in touch with our Congressmen is a great one,and presenting ourselves as “squares”(meaning no hippie dress) on the day of the meeting would be a good idea for whoever may be considering doing this. It may seem at first that you are selling out by dressing in a diffrent way, however, you are actually showing these people that although we live a counter-culture lifestyle, we are articulate, college educated, and intelligent. Therefore, these people will take us much more seriously. As for those at Schwag and the family there, no one can imagine what they are currently going through. I can’t. This is as bad as it gets. Harrassment of “hippies” has gone on for a very long time, and will never end. There is something about us which causes others to want what we have, or be totally prejudiced against us. It seems there is no middle ground. It is sad in today’s PC tolerant enviroment, that we are still not tolerated. This world has never known peace and true love, and when we show it, I beleive it scares people. Rough Ol Boy, I ask you please to contact me as I feel we might be able to work together on this project I have begun calling: Save Camp Zoe. Please email me back and let me know, I would appreciate it.
    For all the Schwagers out there, keep your heads up. Do not allow this harrassment to cause you to fall down under the bootstraps of our law enforcement as we know it. If that happens, then they have won.
    For a final thought, and mind you this is only a thought and opinion by me and no one else, if and when Camp Zoe wins this war, all those who choose to free their minds with substances should be wise to free your mind in your tent. Your tent at Camp Zoe is private property. You have the right to deny entrance to your tent to anyone you choose. This situation should serve as a wake up call for those who unknowingly thought they were safe from the establishment on private property. We were not. Please do not allow this bad history right now to repeat itself in the future when Zoe is open again.

  19. Sarah says:

    Hi everyone.

    I am becomming deeply enthralled in this case. I have never met Jimmy but have attended Schwag many times.

    In my every day life I wear a suit to work, pay my taxes, and am pretty materialistic. But Schwag is my home away from home. I can live without any responsibilities for a couple days out of the year. You don’t have errands to run, there is no technology, and you never have to check the clock. And honestly, thats how most people are that attend. Zoe is a place where the meak can be treated as equals. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your life is like back home, everyone leaves their baggage at the gate. Going to Camp Zoe touches your heart and gives you new hope for humanity. Imagine a world completely filled with the type of people you have met at camp. Are you smiling? Cause you should be.

    I’m trying to stay optimistic because I know that Jimmy has a lot of people that would love to help him fight this war.

    Favorite Schwag memories anyone?

    1.) Watching the hula hoopers
    2.) Watchig the poi circle at the back of the main stage
    3.) Sitting on the beach and listening to people play the drums inside the cave
    4.) The Italian Ice truck thats ALWAYS on Shake Down
    5.) “Are you happy? Do you know why? Because it’s free. Do you know why it’s free? Cause you’re happy!” (WTF?!)


  20. Steven Beza says:

    What the fuck am i supposed to do now! everything was going so hippy for me and now i will not have a home! I can no longer sell alot of drungis and dingleheimer bracelets or take advantage of young small girls on drungis! I will miss being a free spirit and getting my huge dringle moist. love and peace, Steven Beza

  21. Jonny D says:

    Seriously, fuck this country. Every time I turn around, we the people of this land are being persecuted by this police state bullshit. Im about ready to say F-it and run to Mexico. Did you know you can get a really nice house down there for 10 grand? As soon as I got my 10G’s Im going. I can’t stand the Shi*hole that this country has become.

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