TF Archives

A.C.L.U: Playing Dance Music Could Get You Jailed For Life

Author: Skruff
Saturday, March 17, 2001
A.C.L.U: Playing Dance Music Could Get You Jailed For Life (interview)
Club promoters, DJs and people working in electronic music in America could soon risk being jailed for life, ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) director Graham Boyd told Mezz this week, as US authorities consider whether to escalate their case against 3 New Orleans club promoters, effectively charged with hosting dance events. "Rather than going after the drug itself or the drug dealers, they're going after the people who are providing the music. That's a very scary shift of tactics," said Mr Boyd, a Director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project. "The fear now is that they (the federal government) are going to come back with life sentences against people who play music."

The case against the New Orleans 3 follows a 16 month investigation which found no evidence of even drug possession from the trio, but according to DEA prosecuting attorney Eddie Jordan; "they used these raves to exploit young people by designing them for pervasive drug use." If US authorities succeed with their case, they'll be setting a legal precedent that could force every single dance club in the States to shut down immediately. "They're saying 'If you want to be involved in the music industry, find some other genre. Put on a rock concert, or a hip-hop concert but don't put on a techno concert because we think it draws drug use'," Graham Boyd explained.

Mezz: The ACLU are helping the defendants challenge this case on the basis that it violates the American Constitution, on what grounds exactly-
A.C.L.U. (Graham Boyd): "Free speech and free expression. The provision of music, according to our Supreme Court, is speech in the same way that somebody standing on a soapbox on a street corner is speech - it's protected. The Government does not have the right to stifle that speech in order to achieve some other end. If it's concerned about ecstasy use they should arrest people who use and deal ecstasy but they can't try and get rid of music as a means of achieving that particular goal, under our constitution."

Mezz: How real is the prospect of these 3 promoters going to jail for 25 years-
A.C.L.U. (Graham Boyd): "God, I hope not. The case was brought by the federal government in New Orleans, initially and they worked very hard to persuade these three men to plead guilty. They charged them under a statute with a 20 year sentence yet offered them one year as a plea deal, which I think indicates how strong they saw their case as being. But they also said, 'If you don't accept this deal, we'll dismiss the charges and come back with more serious ones.' Under American conspiracy laws they could face potential life sentences (without parole). They've gone ahead and done step one last Friday (March 9th). The fear now is that they (the federal government) are going to come back with life sentences against people who play music. I have to believe they won't succeed, but the sad thing is that in our country the war on drugs has reached such an out-of-control state that there are many stories of entirely innocent people going to prison for long periods of time because of being connected in some tangential way to the drugs trade. I'm definitely fearful for these three men and I respect them tremendously for standing up and fighting the charges."

Mezz: What's the next step in the case-
A.C.L.U. (Graham Boyd): "The ball's in the government's hands, I would hope that sense will prevail and they decide not to re-indict but my fear is that they will. Also, from an international perspective, I've spent a lot of time in South Africa and I've actually talked to the people who are responsible for making drug policy in that country and I was shocked to learn the way it works. We have a drug enforcement administration (DEA) office in Johannesburg where we send US government officials to basically lobby the South African government to enact drug policies<