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<nettime> Kurtz probe/ Six are said to resist grand jury
Aliette Guibert on Mon, 21 Jun 2004 07:01:20 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Kurtz probe/ Six are said to resist grand jury

Update June 17th, 2004:

    The results of Tuesday's grand jury hearing are still
not officially known. However, the FBI continues to subpoena
witnesses for further grand jury hearings continuing
at least until June 29th. The ninth person subpoenaed,
Julie Perini, is a student of Steve Kurtz at UB.
    The protest was a success with over 200 people coming
together in support of Steve and everyone who has been
subpoenaed. Reporters from The Buffalo News (follow up)
and several local television stations covered the event.
Articles in New Scientist, The Scientist and The
Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette were published the day of
the grand jury hearings.
    More news stories are available on the Press page.

Please to follow all infos and new useful links
after Tuesday at Buffalo

Quote (Press)

   Six are said to resist grand jury

      Artists, others wary of Kurtz probe

      News Staff Reporter

     A number of artists and art professors refused to testify this week
before a federal grand jury that is investigating Buffalo artist Steve
      At least six people who were called to testify before the grand jury
in the Kurtz case Tuesday refused to appear, invoking their Fifth Amendment
rights against self-incrimination, legal sources said Wednesday.

      Several defense lawyers involved in the case said federal prosecutors
refused to tell their clients whether they might become targets of the
probe, and also refused to grant them immunity from prosecution if they

      "My client declined to testify, and so did quite a few others who were
called before the grand jury," said Thomas J. Eoannou, attorney for Paul
Vanouse, an assistant art professor at the University at Buffalo. "People in
the art community are concerned about this investigation, and where it's
going. They don't know who is being targeted."

      Attorneys James P. Harrington and Daniel J. Henry Jr. said their
clients, UB assistant art professor Andrew Johnson and California artist
Beatriz da Costa, respectively, also declined to testify.

      "I wouldn't call it a protest," Henry said of da Costa's refusal to
testify. "It's just a concern she has to protect herself or people
associated with her."

      Harrington said, "People would love to go into the grand jury and say
(Kurtz) is not a danger to anybody. But they don't trust the government."

      Kurtz, Vanouse and da Costa all are associated with the Critical Art
Ensemble, a controversial group of performance artists who sometimes use
human DNA and bacterial growths such as E.coli in their art exhibits.

      The federal investigation of Kurtz, which began last month after the
death of his wife, Hope, following an apparent heart attack, has upset many
contemporary artists across the United States and Europe. Public
demonstrations supporting Kurtz were held Tuesday in Buffalo, Berkley,
Calif., and at least two European cities.

      The Joint Terrorism Task Force is conducting the investigation.
William J. Hochul Jr., a prosecutor with the task force, declined to comment
on the investigation or the testimony of any witnesses.

      "As a prosecutor, I can't even confirm whether there is a grand jury
looking into this matter," Hochul said. "Speaking generally, I can say that
a grand jury's job is fact-finding, to determine whether a crime has been
committed and, if so, by whom. Just because a grand jury is investigating,
it doesn't always mean somebody is going to be indicted."

      Authorities have told The Buffalo News that the probe is focused on
how and why Kurtz got certain biological agents that were found in his
Allentown home after his wife's death May 11.

      On May 13, FBI agents in biohazard suits were seen carrying numerous
items out of the College Street home. The items reportedly included
laboratory equipment, computers and bacterial cultures.

      The Erie County Health Department closed down the home after the FBI
search and reopened it May 17, after the recovered items were evaluated in a
state laboratory.

      Dr. Anthony J. Billitier IV, the county health commissioner, said that
those who are criticizing the FBI for its investigation are doing so
"without knowing all the facts."

      "Being careful about public safety should be more important than
worrying about getting beaten up by critics," Billitier said this week. "I
can empathize with the FBI's position. On the other hand, Kurtz deserves a
fair evaluation of all the facts."

      Paul J. Cambria, Kurtz's attorney, said the items Kurtz had in the
home were "harmless," similar to those a high school student might use in a
science fair project.

      Da Costa has told The News that the FBI appears to be trying to link
Kurtz to "bioterrorism."

      Kurtz, 46, is an associate art professor at UB. Officials at UB have
declined to comment on the FBI probe, except to say that no internal
investigation is being conducted by the university.


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