Monday, April 21, 2008

Charges dismissed against Critical Art Ensemble artist

A Buffalo judge today dismissed charges against Steven Kurtz, who was accused of illegally obtaining biological materials for an art exhibit protesting U.S. government food policies. U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara ruled that a mail and wire fraud indictment brought nearly four years ago against Kurtz, who is also a University of Buffalo professor, was "insufficient on its face."

For those not following the story (posted about here, here, here and here), Kurtz woke up in May 2004 to discover that his wife had died in her sleep of a heart attack. He called 911 and the response unit that came discovered in their home two kinds of bacteria and equipment they deemed suspicious. Kurtz was brought in for questioning and spent his first night as a widower behind bars.

Investigators determined that the lab equipment used for DNA extraction and amplification equipment was part of his artwork and that Hope Kurtz died naturally. Perhaps to save face (after cordoning off the block and sending in a swat team) Kurtz was indicted on mail and wire fraud charges that carried a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The 2007 film Strange Culture documents the case with both interviews and reenactments.

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