For those following the story of Steve Kurtz of the Critical Art Ensemble, the first ruling in the case came today. Dr. Robert Ferrell, a University of Pittsburgh geneticist and friend of the artist, has been sentenced to a year of unsupervised release and fined $500 for providing Kurtz with bacteria for use in his art practice. Ferrell pled guilty last October to a misdemeanor count of “mailing an injurious article.” Family members and friends say this decision was due to his severe illness (lymphoma, a malignant melanoma and two minor strokes).
The case began as an antiterrorism investigation after the police saw laboratory equipment in Mr. Kurtz’s home after the death of his wife. Originally indicted under the Patriot act, Kurtz now faces trial on federal mail and wire-fraud charges. Suspicions of terrorism were ruled out and many believe that the charges are frivolous and are designed to save face after the over-kill of their initial investigation.