Ecstasy Crackdown

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If all that is true, did the defendants break the Crack House Statute? Maybe. The law has never been stretched so far. Perhaps a jury could be convinced, but the prosecutors had hoped the case wouldn't get to that stage. They offered plea deals of a year in prison (the law carries a maximum of 20 years). But the A.C.L.U. helped persuade the defendants to fight. "Go after the people who deal the drugs," says Graham Boyd, head of the A.C.L.U. Drug Policy Litigation Project. "But you can't go after the people who provide the music--and you especially can't go after only the ones who provide a certain kind." The DEA didn't investigate other State Palace events.

In addition to the A.C.L.U., a local lawyer is helping. Buddy Lemann is the kind of charming defense attorney who wears three-piece suits, drinks martinis at lunch, writes a book about himself called Hail to the Dragon Slayer--and the kind who wins constantly and charges a lot. But the Brunets and Estopinal hope the music industry will help pay. An organization called the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund has formed in Los Angeles to raise money for them; the fund may also look into efforts by authorities to shut down raves in Chicago and other cities using local ordinances similar to the Crack House Statute. The International Association of Assembly Managers, a trade group for 1,500 entertainment venues, has filed a brief in support of the defendants. "No amount of training, security, or preparation can ... constrain any and all illegal behavior at any mass gathering," it says.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans prosecutors are digging in. They plan to file new charges against the Brunets and Estopinal after a second exhaustive investigation. The DEA's Cazenavette hints that his agents are finding serious dirt on the men. But for now, the music continues. These days the Brunets book mostly non-DJ acts such as the hip-hop duo OutKast. Estopinal still brings big-name DJs to town, though they now spin at a smaller venue. Some patrons there are surely on ecstasy, just as some of the city's many other shows attract other drugs. Charity Hospital, however, is seeing far fewer club-drug admissions, maybe one a month now. Will that improvement be permanent? Or will the raves simply return to the hidden warehouses where they got started? The outcome of the State Palace case may point the way.

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