Artist Steve Kurtz Vindicated!

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Editor’s note: For the official press release, visit Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund Web site.

Federal Charges Against Steven Kurtz Dismissed
by Jeff Woodard, Executive Producer
April 21, 2008, updated April 22, 2008

Dr. Steven KurtzThe indictment charging UB professor Steve Kurtz with two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud, has been thrown out.

Judge Richard Arcara dismissed the charges in federal court Monday.

FBI agents in Haz-Mat suits went into Kurtz’s Buffalo home in May, 2004. Kurtz had called 911 after finding his wife unresponsive. It turned out that Hope Kurtz had died of natural causes.

But once police entered Kurtz’s home, they found biological samples inside. The F.B.I. was called and a huge investigation followed.

Kurtz told authorities that he used the samples as part of his performance art that deals with bio-technology.

After a lengthy investigation, Kurtz was charged not with bio-terrorism, but with fraudulently obtaining two of the samples that were in his home.

The following is an interview Kurtz conducted with Channel 2’s Scott Brown in 2007, when the indictment was still in place:

Brown: “What was that period like?”

Kurtz: “Obviously it was kind of this torrent of emotion that you’re going through with lots of frustration and anger on one end for the investigation and the unfairness and the unjustness, and then on the other hand the personal torment with losing my life partner of 27 years. It’s the kind of contradiction I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” says Kurtz.

Kurtz claims that after the raid on his home, and the national publicity, that the government almost had no choice but to charge him with a crime.

“They spent millions of dollars raiding my house and going through this incredible rigamarol and they had to show something for it,” he says.

Brown: “Can you understand how this would raise alarm bells what was found here?”

Kurtz: “If there was an alarm bell raised, it should have been neutralized pretty quick, in that they could find out that I’m a professor, that my speciality is the relationship of art and science, that I’m known, internationally known, for working with these types of materials. All the signs of legitimacy are there.”

Today, Kurtz lives in the same Allentown home, and continues to participate in art shows around the world.

He says he does so in part to honor the memory of his late wife Hope, who was also a performance artist.

“I know that that’s what Hope would have wanted, to continue that fight, not to just give in and give up the things we had worked for for so many years,” says Kurtz.

Brown: “Where do you think everything goes from here, from this point?”

Kurtz: “Man I wish I had the answer to that, I’d probably sleep a lot better. I would suspect that this is going to end in trial, and I believe we are going to prevail.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office tells 2 On Your Side that neither politics nor terrorism had anything to do with the charges against Kurtz.

U.S. Attorney Terry Flynn says that Kurtz fraudulently obtained the two biological samples that were found in his home during the raid, and that’s the sole reason he was charged.

Related links:

  • Steve Kurtz, artist or terrorist? – Update
  • Steve Kurtz, artist or terrorist?