Motion to Dismiss Charges Called "Premature"
Dan Herbeck, Buffalo News
A criminal case that has upset many people in the art world will continue to move forward in federal court here.
In an opinion issued late Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. refused to recommend dismissal of charges against Steven J. Kurtz, a University at Buffalo art professor who was indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2004.
Kurtz, 47, is a founding member of the Critical Arts Ensemble, a group whose art exhibits often criticize the the federal government. His indictment touched off debate about artistic freedom and the government's efforts to tightly control the distribution of bacterial agents in the post-9/11 era.
It would be "premature" to dismiss the charges, Schroeder wrote. The judge also refused to recommend the suppression of evidence taken from Kurtz's Allentown home after his wife died there in May 2004.
"Even if it assumed . . . that the government will fall short in the required proof, a motion to dismiss the indictment must be considered as being premature and inappropriate in addressing that issue," Schroeder wrote.
The judge said he will schedule a hearing to determine whether some statements Kurtz made to Buffalo police should be suppressed.
Kurtz and Robert E. Ferrell, a human genetics researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, are charged with illegally obtaining bacterial agents from a laboratory in Virginia. They are charged with felony mail fraud and wire fraud.
Kurtz's attorney, Paul J. Cambria Jr., had argued that no actual crime was committed. He said Kurtz obtained "harmless" forms of bacteria that he planned to use "in an art exhibit, to make a political point."
"We plan to appeal this ruling," Cambria said Thursday. "Judge Schroeder didn't say we were wrong. He ...