02/02/10 — Raid at Willie concert raises eyebrows

View Archive

Raid at Willie concert raises eyebrows

By Staff Reports
Published in News on February 2, 2010 1:46 PM

Willie Nelson

KENANSVILLE -- Enough residents of Duplin County are upset over the drug and alcohol raid on Willie Nelson's tour bus last week that the county prosecutor is reviewing how the operation went down to make sure the charges are warranted.

District Attorney Dewey Hudson has said he is asking that all law enforcement documents pertaining to the raid be made available to him.

The raid was carried out by agents of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control, along with local lawmen. It took place prior to the scheduled concert at the Duplin Events Center last Thursday.

Hudson said he has heard many complaints about the way the raid was handled and simply wanted to make sure the law was followed properly.

Eight people were charged, including six band members for moonshine and marijuana possession and two members of the events staff for interfering with lawmen in the pursuit of their duty.

Nelson was suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and had to miss the show.

During the raid, more than a dozen ALE agents and a dozen Duplin County Sheriff's deputies and Kenansville police descended on the parking lot, making more than a dozen arrests for drug and alcohol violations. They then smelled the odor of marijuna near Nelson's tour bus and asked permission to search it. Band members complied and the officers found both marijuana and moonshine liquor.

Nelson is an avowed marijuana smoker.

The event center has been controversial. It has not often been in the black and its construction has been questioned by some county residents as a bad deal. Commissioners have often discussed its operation and how to keep it out of the red.

The Duplin County commissioners did not specifically discuss the incident at their meeting Monday, but the subject of the county's contract with management company VenuWorks was broached.

"As far as the incident ... they didn't discuss it because there's possible litigation," Chairman Cary Turner said today.

The commissioners will be considering changes to the county's contract with VenuWorks at the next meeting, Turner noted.

The board and the committee want the event center to be a family-friendly venue where parents can bring their children, Turner said.

"They're (committee members) really trying to make the events center successful," he added.

Ticketholders were to be reimbursed, according to event center officials.

According to Nelson's Web site, attempts are being made to reschedule the performance. He also missed a show over the weekend in Asheville because of the pain in his hand.