Police activity, arrests increase at Wakarusa

Wearing flip-flops and an Ithaca College T-shirt, 20-year-old Max Winer arrived at the Douglas County Jail Monday afternoon to wait for a friend to have his first court appearance.

His friend had been arrested Friday morning, the second day of the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival at Clinton State Park, after being caught smoking marijuana at his camp site.

An officer also found psilocybin mushrooms in his friend’s backpack, Winer said.

“I feel horrible. He’s been in there since Friday,” Winer said. “He missed all the music. It’s kind of been the trip from hell. … I’m not coming back to Kansas ever again.”

It was just one piece of the legal aftermath that awaits now that the four-day festival has ended.

According to Douglas County Jail records, more than 80 people from 28 states were arrested on alcohol and drug violations during the festival, which police had warned would be more heavily patrolled than in past years.

Steve Robson of Ace Bail Bonds estimated he’d written between 10 and 15 bonds during the weekend and earned about $5,000 in commissions.

Typically, the people arrested were out-of-state residents who judges consider a higher risk for not appearing in court, so Robson required them or their parents to put the entire amount of the bond upfront on a credit card, plus his 10 percent fee, he said.

“If they go to court, they get to keep their money,” he said. “If they don’t, I just pay the court.”

Robson said two of his clients had had their cars impounded because of the civil forfeiture laws associated with drug-dealing crimes.

“I talked to several kids that lost $800 or $900 they had on them” through drug-money seizures, he said.

So many people were arrested that prosecutors have arranged for a special docket at 1:30 p.m. Friday to formally charge many of them.

“I would say we’ve probably seen a doubling of the arrests from last year. That’s just off-hand,” Dist. Atty. Charles Branson said. “We knew that there was going to be a bulge coming through the system.”

In all, police arrested or removed 144 people from the park during the weekend, but not all of those were arrested and booked into jail.

Some of the details of the arrests:

¢ At least 25 of those arrested had a marijuana-related charge.

¢ 12 had an LSD-related charge.

¢ Six had a cocaine-related charge.

¢ 47 people were arrested for being a minor in possession of alcohol. In most cases, officers from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control made the arrest. At first, they were given $100 bonds, but on Friday afternoon, prosecutors decided to let all people arrested for underage drinking out of jail without having to post bond money up front.

“We were afraid, in consulting with the sheriff’s department, that they were going to start to be looking at some capacity issues,” Branson said. “I didn’t want someone sitting in jail with an MIP.”

¢ Those arrested came from the following states: Kansas (14), Missouri (9), Wisconsin (8), Colorado (7), Oklahoma (6), Illinois (5), New Mexico (4), Iowa (3), New Jersey (3), New York (3), Vermont (2), Pennsylvania (2), Kentucky (2), Nebraska (2), Mississippi (2), Georgia (2), West Virginia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Montana, Connecticut, California, Indiana, North Carolina and Louisiana (1 each).

Apparently, many people didn’t get the message law enforcement had sent out before the festival: Leave the illegal drugs at home.

“It’s been this way since the ’60s. It’s the same type of people,” Winer said. “They want to enhance their musical experience, so they’ll do what they will.”