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Crack House US Club Promoters Not Guilty

Author: Jonty Adderley
Friday, November 30, 2001
A US jury took less than 2 hours to find Patrick and Thorsten Pfeffer from Florida nightspot Club LaVela not guilty this week, after federal officials tried to convict the promoters for encouraging drug use under the so-called "crack house laws".

The DEA (drug enforcement agency) had claimed that the presence in the club of rave paraphernalia such as glow sticks and bubble gum, provided evidence that the promoters were trying to promote drug use, though the jury took just 75 minutes to declare the pair innocent. If convicted they would have faced mandatory 20 year prison sentences, while America's entire electronic music industry would have effectively been criminalized.

Campaigning organisation EMDEF described the verdict as a "major blow to federal prosecutors", who'd spent 5 years investigating the Florida club.

"The Club La Vela case is important because it makes it more difficult for the
Government to find a grand jury willing to indict, and to seize the assets of nightclub owners and managers," EMDEF spokesperson Will Paterson told Skrufff's Jonty Adderley.

"But most importantly, venue managers will no longer be threatened with indictment under the law, and if they are, they will be more comfortable ignoring the threats. If there is anywhere in the United States where a prosecutor could hope for a conviction by a grand jury, that place was North Western Florida. This is a major victory.

I doubt that this will end the practice of law enforcement agencies threatening venues, or of other cases being brought against venue managers, but, it certainly reduces the seriousness of the threats," he added. (EMDEF) (may be down)