Mikel Knight vans, buses canvas area

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Reports of harassment, cooperation mixed in local cities

The Maverick Dirt Road Street Team, representing country rapper Mikel Knight, made multiple stops in the Barry and Lawrence county areas, and despite having a reputation for causing trouble, local police are reporting they have had little issues with the CD and concert ticket peddlers.

The team has been in Cassville, Purdy, Pierce City and Monett at various times over the weekend up to Tuesday.

While no reports or criminal charges were filed in Pierce City, Police Chief Mike Abramovitz said the salesmen on the team were at Casey's and Dollar General, where incidents of harassment were reported.

"They had permission from the owner of the strip mall where Dollar General is to be there, but we had some reports of them harassing customers, so Dollar General wanted them gone," Abramovitz said. "One lady came in [to the police station] to report the harassment. They were yelling at customers going into the store."

Abramovitz said when asked to leave, the group was not very understanding or cooperative, but did end up moving on. He said they were selling CDs without a peddlers license, which goes against city ordinances.

Dana Kammerlohr, Cassville police chief, said the peddlers had several vans and motor homes in the area, setting up at Casey's in Cassville on Tuesday.

"They did not stay, as we have a peddlers ordinance," Kammerlohr said. "An officer talked to them, and they were going to move outside the city. They did not stay long. They were very agreeable from my understanding."

The group also set up at Country Corner in Purdy on Tuesday, where they were allowed to sell items since the city has no peddlers ordinance.

"I had never heard of them until yesterday," said Jackie Lowe, Purdy police chief. "Word is they go around in buses and vans selling these CDs very aggressively. But, they were here all day [Tuesday] with three guys selling CDs and we had no complaints, and the store gave them permission to be there."

George Daoud, Monett police chief, said the Knight-decorated vehicles were in Monett throughout the weekend up until Tuesday, but no major issues arose.

"We had a couple police contacts with them, but no criminal reports were made," he said. "We had one call about them being disruptive at a store, but they have since moved on and left town."

Daoud said Monett does have an ordinance requiring a peddlers license to sell things like CDs.

"We checked and they were not selling anything," Daoud said. "They were just hanging around to be seen and not doing any business."

The Maverick Dirt Road Street Team was also selling tickets to a Saturday show at Memorial Hall in Joplin, and the show's legitimacy was called into question by local residents.

However, Alina Watkins, recreation leader for the city of Joplin's Parks and Recreation Department, confirmed the concert is scheduled.

"They turned in a contract and paid rent for the building, so everything is good and ready to go on our end," she said. "Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 9:15 p.m."

Tickets are available on Knight's website at $30 apiece.

Knight also has a show scheduled for June 11 at Whiskey Tango in Omaha, Neb. No one at the venue could be reached as of press time to confirm the event.

Knight and his group have been the focus of many stories alleging the salesmen skirt local peddling ordinances and engage in overly-aggressive sales tactics. According to an article on www.savingcountrymusic.com, Knight's real name is Jason Cross, and he has an extensive criminal history in Nashville, Tenn., and San Antonio, Texas, including charges of assault, harassment and theft.

Knight, who says he has turned his life around, claims any negative publicity is due to disgruntled former employees, and his enterprise is a faith-based organization offering gainful employment to young men who need it, including mostly men who have had trouble with the law.

According to a www.gawker.com article, the Maverick Dirt Road Street Team launched in 2012 with a single van selling about 20 albums per day. By 2014, with an expanded fleet, the team was selling 35,000 albums per day, and a press release from Knight said his independent label, 1203 Entertainment, netted more than $3 million in 2014.

Abramovitz said he believes the Knight groups have moved on to Lawrence County, possibly heading to the Joplin and Carthage areas for the concert.

David Hubert, Mt. Vernon police chief, said on Wednesday he had not seen any Knight crews in town, nor had he ever heard of the group. Brad DeLay, Lawrence County sheriff, said he also had not heard of the team being in Lawrence County.

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