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<nettime> ARTIST RELEASED FROM PRETRIAL SUPERVISION OVER DOJ OBJECTIONS
CAE Defense Fund on Fri, 18 Nov 2005 08:51:12 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> ARTIST RELEASED FROM PRETRIAL SUPERVISION OVER DOJ OBJECTIONS


November 17, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts: 
    Edmund Cardoni 1-716-812-9237
    Gregg Bordowitz 1-312-420-6092
    Lucia Sommer 1-716-359-3061
    mailto:media {AT} caedefensefund.org

ARTIST RELEASED FROM PRETRIAL SUPERVISION OVER DOJ OBJECTIONS
Supervisor requests release, prosecution attempts to block

Buffalo, NY - Artist and University at Buffalo professor Steven Kurtz
has been released from pretrial supervision despite strong objections
from US Department of Justice prosecutor William Hochul.

Kurtz's case has not yet gone to trial and motions for its dismissal
are pending, but until last week the artist was subject to random
house searches and drug tests, was limited in his ability to travel,
and had to report regularly to a probation officer. (See "Summary of
Case" below for background.)

Last week, arguing that there was no hint of criminality or risk of
flight, Zenaida Piotrowicz, Kurtz's pretrial supervisor, motioned a
federal court to release Kurtz from supervision. Despite vigorous and
exceptional objections by Department of Justice prosecutor Hochul,
Magistrate Judge Kenneth Schroeder agreed there was no reason not to
release Kurtz on his own recognizance to await trial.

Kurtz's Defense Committee believes that the prosecutor's unusual and
fierce opposition to the pretrial supervisor's motion to release
Kurtz from probation is yet another example of the extreme prejudice
with which the Department of Justice has approached the case. The
Defense Committee believes the case in fact represents a deliberate
attempt to intimidate and silence artists and scholars critical of US
government policy, and that the DOJ's extreme prejudice is further
suggested by the following facts:

* This is the first time the Department of Justice has ever tried to
prosecute the alleged breaking of a material transfer agreement as
federal mail fraud. In the prosecution's radical interpretation of
mail fraud law, incorrectly filling in a warranty card would be
grounds for federal criminal prosecution. Last July, at a hearing on
the case, Magistrate Judge Kenneth Schroeder noted that such an
interpretation would be akin to opening a "Pandora's box."

* The Department of Justice is completely outside its own guidelines
for prosecution on this case ("9-43.100 Prosecution Policy Relating
to Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud"). According to these guidelines, an
alleged infraction involving $256 worth of harmless bacteria should
be left to the relevant state agencies, i.e. those of New York and
Pennsylvania; these, however, have declined to take action in the
case. (The alleged victims of the "fraud," American Type Culture
Collection and the University of Pittsburgh, have likewise declined
to take any action, either criminal or civil.)

* The substances Kurtz allegedly received are harmless and are not
regulated by any law or government agency (EPA, FDA, etc.), as
prosecutor Hochul was forced to admit at a hearing last July.
Furthermore, they are legal for any citizen to buy and possess. Their
intended use was very obviously in bonafide creative work and
research by a well-known artist and university professor with a long
and institutionally validated record.

Kurtz is currently awaiting a ruling on motions to dismiss the entire
case filed by his attorney Paul Cambria.

SUMMARY OF CASE

Almost eighteen months have passed since Kurtz awoke to find that his
wife of twenty years had died of heart failure. He called the police,
who, upon noticing lab equipment that Kurtz used in his artwork and
teaching, contacted the FBI. The FBI detained Kurtz as a potential
"bioterrorist" and initiated an investigation involving the Joint
Terrorism Task Force, the Department of Homeland Security, and
numerous other federal and international law enforcement agencies, at
an estimated cost to taxpayers in the millions of dollars.

Kurtz was finally indicted not for bioterrorism, but for "mail and
wire fraud" - charges traditionally brought in weak cases when no
other charges will stick. (These charges still carry a possible
sentence of twenty years in prison.)

                              ###

For more information, please contact Edmund Cardoni (716-812-9237),
Gregg Bordowitz (312-420-6092) or Lucia Sommer (716-359-3061), or
send email to mailto:media {AT} caedefensefund.org.

The CAE Defense Fund website is http://www.caedefensefund.org





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