Saturday, October 13, 2007

Critical Art Ensemble

Dr. Robert Ferrel, the co-defendant in the government's case against Critical Art Ensemble member Steven Kurtz, pled guilty on Thursday to a lesser charge of mailing bacteria samples, rather than face a financially crippling prolonged trial for federal charges of "mail fraud" and "wire fraud". Under the USA Patriot Act, the maximum penalty for these charges has increased from five years in prison, to twenty. The 64-year-old genetics researcher now faces up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

The plea bargain comes at a time of overwhelming support from the public, and increased profile from a docu-drama film about the case called "Strange Culture." Directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson, the film features Bafta winner and Golden Globe nominee Tilda Swinton (Broken Flowers, Chronicles of Narnia, Michael Clayton) and Thomas Jay Ryan (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Henry Fool). According to the distributor, the film will be screened in Toronto in November.

Ferrell will be sentenced in February and Kurtz will be back in court on October 30th for further proceedings in his case.

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