[NetBehaviour] FOUR YEAR LEGAL BATTLE ENDS WITH SUBSTANTIAL DONATIONS TO CIVIL & HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Fri Sep 18 18:32:28 CEST 2009


FOUR YEAR LEGAL BATTLE ENDS WITH SUBSTANTIAL DONATIONS TO CIVIL & HUMAN 
RIGHTS GROUPS

September 16, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


CONTACTS:
Steven Kurtz: (716) 812-2968
Lucia Sommer, CAE Defense Fund: (716) 359-3061
Edmund Cardoni, CAE Defense Fund: (716) 854-1694
David Lerner, Center for Constitutional Rights: (212) 260-5000
Jennifer Carnig, New York Civil Liberties Union: (212) 607-3363

FOUR YEAR LEGAL BATTLE ENDS WITH SUBSTANTIAL DONATIONS TO CIVIL & HUMAN 
RIGHTS GROUPS
CAE Defense Fund donated to Center for Constitutional Rights & New York 
Civil
Liberties Union

Buffalo, NY - After a widely watched four-year legal battle, the CAE 
Defense Fund
was officially dissolved last week, with its remainder of unexpended 
funds donated
in two substantial gifts to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) 
and the New
York affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).

The CAE Defense Fund was originally created as a mechanism to raise 
funds for
legal bills incurred by Dr. Steven Kurtz and Dr. Robert Ferrell in what its
members argued was a politically motivated attack by the Department of 
Justice--one
which threatened the constitutional and fundamental rights not only of 
the two
defendants, but also of everyone, due to legal precedents that would 
have been set
by an unfavorable outcome.

In response, thousands of people worldwide organized demonstrations and 
raised
money for the two men's legal defense through fundraisers and a variety 
of other
grassroots efforts.

The fund was also heavily supported by internationally renowned artists 
including
Sol Lewitt, Richard Serra, Hans Haacke, Cindy Sherman, Carl Andre, Mike 
Kelley,
Kiki Smith, Sam Durant, Mark Dion, Jeremy Deller, and many others, who 
donated
work to an auction at Paula Cooper Gallery in April 2005. Other artists 
such as
Chuck Close, Walid Raad, and Ed Ruscha made substantial direct cash 
contributions.
In all, the Fund raised approximately $350,000.

Drs. Kurtz and Ferrell were indicted for mail and wire fraud in June of 
2004.
Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the maximum sentence for those charges was 
increased
from five years to twenty years in jail. After an arduous four-year-long 
struggle,
in April of 2008 the indictment against Kurtz was finally dismissed by 
Federal
Judge Richard J. Arcara as "insufficient on its face"--meaning that even 
if the
actions alleged in the indictment (which the judge must accept as 
"fact") were
true, they would not constitute a crime. Ferrell pleaded guilty to a 
misdemeanor
charge in October 2007 after recurring bouts of cancer and three strokes 
suffered
during the course of the case prevented him from continuing the struggle.

When the case was dismissed instead of going to trial, approximately 
$108,930
remained in the fund.

"Had the case gone to a jury trial, that amount wouldn't have been 
enough to cover
Steve's legal bills through the trial, let alone appeals in the event of 
a guilty
verdict" explained Edmund Cardoni, Executive Director of Hallwalls 
Contemporary
Arts Center in Buffalo NY, and the Fund's fiscal administrator. "When 
the case was
finally thrown out, we were thrilled, but we were presented with a new 
problem.
The committee was very conscious of our ethical responsibility to make 
sure this
money would be used in a way that honored the original intent of the 
many people
who gave money to the fund, and the artists who donated art works to the
fundraising auction."

In keeping with that purpose--to defend our fundamental constitutional 
rights--the
CAE Defense Fund and Trial Fund committees, in consultation with artists,
curators, and others centrally involved in the fundraising efforts, voted to
disburse the remaining funds by awarding 80 percent ($87,150) to the 
CCR, and 20
percent ($21,780) to the NYCLU.

CAE Defense Fund coordinator Lucia Sommer said, "We are extremely happy 
that the
case is over, and that the remaining funds can be passed on to 
organizations that
have such a distinguished record of defending not only the U.S. 
Constitution, but
also the human rights and dignity of all people."

Added Kurtz, "I always promised everyone who donated their time, labor and
hard-earned money to our defense that this struggle would do more than 
demonstrate
to the Justice Department that the art, science, academic and activist 
communities
would not be intimidated by its authoritarian tactics. We knew the legal 
precedent
set by the case was critical to preventing what happened to Bob and me from
happening to others, and it's incredibly rewarding to know that these 
funds can
now be used to defend others who do not have the kind of support we had."

Representatives of both organizations expressed gratitude for the donations.

"The NYCLU is very pleased to receive this generous contribution from 
the CAE
Legal Defense Fund to continue our work in restoring, defending, and 
upholding our
constitutional and fundamental rights, including artistic and academic 
freedoms,"
said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties 
Union.

Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights,
congratulated the CAE Defense Fund "and its many dedicated and principled
supporters for your extraordinary victory--a victory for our country and the
Constitution as much as it is for the individuals." He further stated 
that, "The
CCR is honored to use the tremendous support of the Fund's donors to 
continue the
fight against repression of dissent and illegal detentions--work which,
unfortunately, is still sorely needed."


For more information about the case, please visit: 
http://caedefensefund.org



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