Neil Jenkins neiljenkins at devoid.co.uk
Wed Jun 11 05:48:29 CEST 2008

Begin forwarded message:

> From: CAE Defense Fund <media at caedefensefund.org>
> Date: 11 June 2008 1:26:43 PM
> To: "neil-devoid.co.uk" <neil at devoid.co.uk>
> June 11, 2008
> Email: media at caedefensefund.org
> Dr. Steven J. Kurtz: (716) 812-2968
> Lucia Sommer, CAE Defense Fund: (716) 359-3061
> Edmund Cardoni, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center: (716) 854-1694
> Department of Justice Fails to Appeal Dismissal
> Kurtz Speaks about Four-Year Ordeal
> Buffalo, NY--Dr. Steven Kurtz, a Professor of Visual Studies at  
> SUNY at
> Buffalo and cofounder of the award-winning art and theater group  
> Critical
> Art Ensemble, has been cleared of all charges of mail and wire  
> fraud. On
> April 21, Federal Judge Richard J. Arcara dismissed the  
> government's entire
> indictment against Dr. Kurtz as "insufficient on its face." This  
> means that
> even if the actions alleged in the indictment (which the judge must  
> accept
> as "fact") were true, they would not constitute a crime. The US  
> Department
> of Justice had thirty days from the date of the ruling to appeal.  
> No action
> has been taken in this time period, thus stopping any appeal of the
> dismissal. According to Margaret McFarland, a spokeswoman for US  
> Attorney
> Terrance P. Flynn, the DoJ will not appeal Arcara's ruling and will  
> not seek
> any new charges against Kurtz.
> For over a decade, cultural institutions worldwide have hosted  
> Kurtz and
> Critical Art Ensemble's educational art projects, which use common  
> science
> materials to examine issues surrounding the new biotechnologies. In  
> 2004 the
> Department of Justice alleged that Dr. Kurtz had schemed with  
> colleague Dr.
> Robert Ferrell of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of  
> Public
> Health to illegally acquire two harmless bacteria cultures for use  
> in one of
> those projects. The Justice Department further alleged that the  
> transfer of
> the material from Ferrell to Kurtz broke a material transfer  
> agreement, thus
> constituting mail fraud.
> Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the maximum sentence for these charges was
> increased from five years to twenty years in prison.
> Dr. Kurtz has been fighting the charges ever since. In October  
> 2007, Dr.
> Ferrell pleaded to a lesser misdemeanor charge after recurring  
> bouts of
> cancer and three strokes suffered since his indictment prevented  
> him from
> continuing the struggle.
> Finally vindicated after four years of struggle, Kurtz, asked for a
> statement, responded stoically: "I don't have a statement, but I do  
> have
> questions. As an innocent man, where do I go to get back the four  
> years the
> Department of Justice stole from me? As a taxpayer, where do I go  
> to get
> back the millions of dollars the FBI and Justice Department wasted
> persecuting me? And as a citizen, what must I do to have a Justice
> Department free of partisan corruption so profound it has turned on  
> those it
> is sworn to protect?"
> Said Kurtz's attorney, Paul Cambria,  "I am glad an innocent man  
> has been
> vindicated. Steve Kurtz stared in the face of the federal  
> government and a
> twenty-year prison term and never flinched, because he believes in  
> his work
> and his actions were those of a completely innocent man. Clients  
> like him
> are a blessing, and although I have had many important victories,  
> this one
> stands at the top of the list."
> As coordinator of the CAE Defense Fund, a group organized to  
> support Kurtz
> from the beginning of the case, Lucia Sommer sees the end of the  
> prosecution
> as bittersweet, and like Kurtz, is thoughtful about the broader  
> significance
> of the case:  "This ruling is the best possible ending to a horrible
> ordeal--but we are mindful of numerous cases still pending, and the  
> grave
> injustices perpetrated by the Bush administration following 9/11.  
> This case
> was part of a larger picture, in which law enforcement was given  
> expanded
> powers. In this instance, the Bush administration was unsuccessful  
> in its
> attempt to erode Americans' constitutional rights."
> Referring to the international outcry the case provoked, involving
> fundraisers and protests held on four continents, Sommer said, "The
> government has unlimited resources to bring and prosecute these  
> kinds of
> charges, but the accused often don't have any resources to defend
> themselves. This victory could never have happened without the  
> activism of
> thousands of people. Supporters protested, vocally opposed the  
> prosecution,
> and refused to let it go on in silence. And without their efforts at
> fundraising, Kurtz and Ferrell would not have been able to defend  
> themselves
> from these false accusations."
> Sommer added that the next step for the defense will be to get back  
> all of
> the materials taken by the FBI during its 2004 raid on the Kurtz home,
> including several completed art projects, as well as Dr. Kurtz's lab
> equipment, computers, books, manuscripts, notes, research  
> materials, and
> personal belongings.  The four confiscated art projects are the  
> subject of
> an exhibition entitled SEIZED on view at Hallwalls Contemporary  
> Arts Center
> in Buffalo, NY, through July 18:
> http://www.hallwalls.org/visual_shows/2008/show_seized.html.
> The case originated in May 2004, when Kurtz's wife Hope died of heart
> failure as the couple was preparing a project about genetically  
> modified
> agriculture for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.  
> Police who
> responded to Steve Kurtz's 911 call deemed the Kurtzes' art materials
> suspicious and alerted the FBI. Kurtz explained that the materials  
> (legally
> and easily obtained basic life science equipment and two harmless  
> bacteria
> samples) had already been displayed at museums throughout Europe  
> and North
> America with absolutely no risk to the public. However, the  
> following day,
> Kurtz was illegally detained for 22 hours on suspicion of  
> bioterrorism, as
> dozens of agents from the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Homeland
> Security, Department of Defense, ATF, and numerous other law  
> enforcement
> agencies raided his home, seizing his personal and professional  
> belongings.
> After a federal grand jury refused to charge Kurtz with  
> bioterrorism, Kurtz
> and Ferrell were indicted on two counts of mail fraud and two  
> counts of wire
> fraud concerning the acquisition of  of harmless bacteria for one of
> Critical Art Ensemble's educational art projects. (Critical Art  
> Ensemble is
> the recipient of numerous awards for its projects, including the  
> prestigious
> 2007 Andy Warhol Foundation Wynn Kramarsky Freedom of Artistic  
> Expression
> Grant, in recognition of twenty years of distinguished work:
> http://www.creative-capital.org/index2.html.)
> The Department of Justice brought the charges in spite of the fact  
> that the
> alleged "victims of fraud"--American Type Culture Collection and the
> University of Pittsburgh--never filed any charges or complained of any
> wrongdoing, and the fact that in bringing the charges the  
> Department of
> Justice was acting completely outside its own Prosecution Policy  
> Relating to
> Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud
> (http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usam/ 
> title9/43mcrm.htm).
> For more information and extensive documentation, including the  
> Judge's
> dismissal, please visit: http://caedefensefund.org
> ***

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