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  • Congress slips anti-club measure into child-abduction bill.

    NEW ORLEANS—The correlation between baby-snatching perverts and pacifier-slinging music promoters is tenuous at best, but on April 10, the House and Senate approved a revived version of last year’s failed “RAVE Act” as part of the “Amber Alert” anti-child-abduction bill. The new law, the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, was quietly folded into the measure by Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE).

    As Section 608 of the “Amber Alert” bill, formally titled the PROTECT (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today) Act, it broadly expands the federal “crackhouse law” (21 USC 856). That law already allows up to 20 years incarceration and $500,000 in fines for opening or maintaining a building for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using an illegal drug. The new wording extends it to cover temporary, one-time, and outdoor events, and also allows the Feds to levy civil suits against promoters, with additional fines of up to $250,000 per offense. Civil suits have a lower threshold of proof, requiring only a “preponderance of evidence” instead of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” of criminal trials.

    The Feds already used the crackhouse law in their landmark—though widely ridiculed—prosecution of New Orleans promoters Donnie Estopinal and brothers Brian and Robert Brunet in 2000. This year, the conviction and sentencing of Idaho promoter Lee Rice on the same charge earlier this year barely raised a whimper of protest. (See below.)

    In these increasingly conservative political waters, Senator Biden has offered up concert promoters as chum for Attorney General John Ashcroft’s old school buddies. “Amber Alert is certainly the centerpiece of that act,” explains Chip Unruh, Biden’s spokesperson. “What binds them together—the purpose of that act—is to protect kids. As for slipping [the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act] in there, we don’t feel that we slipped it in there; it passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It would have gone through last year, but it was held up because of some judicial nominations.”

    Last year’s RAVE Act was essentially the same bill, but contained explicitly anti-rave language; glowsticks and chill-out rooms were deemed evidence that promoters were aiding and abetting drug use. Two key sponsors withdrew after ravers sent tens of thousands of protest messages to Congress. Biden made a last-ditch effort to resurrect the bill in October, but it died. This year, the PROTECT Act as a whole was approved by the Judiciary Committee—where Biden is the top Democrat on the crime subcommittee—without hearings on the drug provisions.

    “There’s sort of an alarmist attitude out there about this bill,” Unruh continues. “The Drug Policy Alliance claimed they had gathered so much opposition to it, and the ACLU, too. They’ve tried to scare people into believing that incidental drug use will be targeted.”

    Indeed, the wording of the bill is so broad that Widespread Panic may eventually have to do Muzak renditions of “Tiny Bubbles” for Wal-Mart shoppers, rather than risk their fortunes by strumming live for fields full of tripping hippies. California landlords who allow little old ladies burdened with glaucoma to toke up at home could conceivably face forfeiture of their property. Cypress Hill might as well resign themselves to singing family tunes for Narcotics Anonymous conventions in Branson, Missouri. The potential nightmare that this bill poses was disturbing enough to prompt the Drug Policy Alliance to spearhead a drive that—once again—flooded Capitol Hill with over 30,000 letters in opposition to Section 608. Alas; to no avail. Still, the fight is far from finished.

    “We’re turning our attention to enforcement issues,” says the DPA’s William McColl, unswayed by the setback. “I expect that at some point we’ll try to repeal it or change it. They’ve already prosecuted people who are innocent, and I expect them to prosecute more.”

    Biden’s office denies that innocent rave promoters will be targeted, however. “This is no more anti-rave than the crackhouse law is anti-house. To prove that a promoter violated this law is an incredibly high bar,” insists Unruh. “A very small percentage of raves will be shut down because of this, and the ones that are will be the ones where unscrupulous promoters prey on young people by encouraging drug use. If you hold an event to distribute drugs, you will be held accountable.”

    “There’s really an issue about the way they passed this,” sighs McColl. “I think we’d have a very different bill if they’d gone through committee. It’s unusual for it to go through with no vote, no hearing. They knew it was a major issue.”

    For more information, visit the Drug Policy Action Network, the DEA, or Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund.


    April Fool’s Day was no joke for rave promoters Lee Arthur Rice II and Kevin Pawlik. Rice received a seven-year federal prison sentence plus three years of probation and a $2,000 fine for conspiracy to distribute Ecstasy and LSD, as well as violating the “crackhouse law.” Pawlik got 17 years in the pen and six years of probation.

    The two men are the first rave promoters to be found guilty at trial of knowingly allowing a venue to be used for the sale or consumption of drugs. The Feds initially used the crackhouse law in 2000 to prosecute concert promoters in New Orleans; that case was settled with a hefty fine. In 2001 they targeted Club La Vela (MTV’s spring-break headquarters from 1996-98) in Panama City Beach, Florida, but the defendants were acquitted.

    Rice and Pawlik didn’t fare so well, however. Deputy US Attorney Monte Stiles claimed that Rice allowed codefendants Eric Shira and Tyler Nichol to use his VIP rooms to sell drugs during his music events in exchange for a kickback, an assertion that they all denied. Whether or not Rice will face criminal forfeiture of his properties, Lee’s Hip-Hop Boxing Club and Knockouts, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, he continues to adamantly proclaim his innocence, and is planning to appeal.;;

    an shit, guys, that’s a nasty story, but…

    did you know that the right to paarrtay is the least of your worries?

    in 2002 bush administration passed a bill which now allows any federally funded employer (i.e schools, police, social services services and employment service providers etc etc etc) to discriminate against employees based on the criteria of gender, ethnicity and religion.


    I’ll just undo over a century of civil rights and be considered reasonable for another election.

    We got some issues here in the UK, let’s just hope it never gets that bad.






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