ALE agents issue citations at Willie Nelson concert
By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 31, 2010 2:30 AM
KENANSVILLE -- Willie Nelson wasn't on the road again Thursday night, but state Alcohol Law Enforcement agents were, and they cited members of the famed singer's band for drug and moonshine possession.
Nelson was a no-show for his scheduled concert at the Duplin County Events Center, where the ALE's operation, "On the Road Again," resulted in the arrests of 14 people on 25 charges -- mostly drug and alcohol violations.
Among those charged were John Duane Vogt, general manager of the Events Center, along with one of his employees. Both were accused of interfering with an ALE agent while the agent was performing an inspection of the licensed premises.
A violation report will be submitted to the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission concerning the interference charges.
ALE Special Agent in Charge Ted Carlton said he could not discuss the two interference charges because they were still under investigation.
The operation consisted of enforcement teams working in and around the Events Center just prior to the scheduled concert. ALE was assisted by the Kenansville Police Department and the Duplin County Sheriff's Office.
Carlton said agents were walking in the parking lot area at the Events Center about 6:40 p.m. Thursday when they smelled the odor of marijuana near one of the buses connected with the Nelson tour.
The agents asked for, and received, the consent of the band members to board one of the buses.
"They were really nice people," he said. "They were very polite and very respectful."
Six members of Nelson's band and crew were cited on charges of non-tax-paid alcohol (moonshine) possession and the possession of marijuana. None of the band members were placed under arrest or taken into custody. They were all issued citations and released prior to the time they were scheduled to go on stage.
The band members were "very cooperative" and told the ALE agents they were the nicest law enforcement officers they had ever encountered, Carlton said.
At about 8 p.m., people attending the concert were told the concert had been canceled. At first, the perception was the cancellation was because of the arrest of band members, Carlton said.
However, bass player Dan Spears told Carlton the cancellation was due to Nelson's health and not the criminal citations issued to the band. The information was verified with follow-up news reports relaying information from Nelson's Web site, he said.
The 25 charges were:
* Seven counts of unlawful possession of spirituous liquor (drinking in the parking lot)
* Six counts of non-tax paid alcohol (moonshine)
* Two counts interfere with an inspection of a licensed premises
* Five counts misdemeanor possession of marijuana
* One count maintaining a vehicle to sell a controlled substance
* One count felony possession of marijuana
* Two counts possession of drug paraphernalia
* One count possession of marijuana with intent to sell.
Carlton said about three-quarters of a quart of moonshine was confiscated.
All of the arrests were made in the Events Center parking lot, since the event never started.
"We had planned to work inside (the center), but it never got to that point," Carlton said. "The goal of these operations is to make communities safer and improve the quality of life for law-abiding citizens."
Vogt said he could not comment on the arrests.
He did confirm that Nelson was a no-show and that the singer notified the center just before the show was to begin that he would not be there.
People who bought tickets through Ticketmaster will receive an automatic refund. People who purchased tickets at the Events Center can take the tickets to the center or mail them in for a refund, he said.
Vogt recommended that patrons use registered mail if they plan to mail the tickets in.