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In New Orleans, three men have been indicted for allegedly organizing a series of rave parties where large amounts of drugs were consumed, a case prosecutors say could lead to a nationwide crackdown on the high-energy dance parties. Investigators connected more than 400 overdoses to the raves, which were held periodically from 1995 through August 2000, said George Cazenavette, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s New Orleans office. “In my time as a prosecutor this is one of the most unconscionable drug violations I have seen,” U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan said. “They used these raves to exploit young people by designing them for pervasive drug abuse.” Jordan said federal prosecutors around the country have asked him for copies of the case so they can use the same strategies to clamp down on rave organizers in their districts. Robert J. Brunet, 37, was charged with conspiracy to violate a federal crackhouse law that makes it a crime to make a building available for the use of illegal drugs. His brother, Brian Brunet, 33, was charged along with James Estopinal, 32, on one count of violating the law. Jordan said raves by definition are parties where pulsating techno music, steam, and paraphernalia such as pacifiers, chemical light sticks and flashing light rings are used to support highs from club drugs like Ecstasy. Therefore, anyone who uses the word “rave” to market an event could be inviting an investigation, Cazenavette and Jordan said. But Gerard Rault, a criminal law professor at Loyola University, said the tactic might be a stretch because prosecutors would have to prove that the defendants were certain of widespread drug use on the premises and did nothing to stop it. Rault compared the situation to alumni associations that buy or lease fraternity houses on or near college campuses. “Now would it surprise us to find drug use in those houses? Probably not, but does that mean those alumni organizations are somehow guilty?” he asked. Rault expected the case to cause rave organizers to rethink how they go about hosting and promoting their events. “Just the very prosecution of these people becomes very costly to them and there’s the agony of potential conviction, so the very fact of the indictment would deter rave parties.” The suspects allegedly organized the raves at a landmark downtown New Orleans performance hall known as the State Palace theater. The owners of the theater will not be charged, prosecutors said. No one answered the phone Friday at either of the listed numbers for the Brunet brothers. Estopinal’s phone number was unlisted. Each faces maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. The men had been notified of the charges but were not arrested. They were expected to be arraigned next week, Jordan said. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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