Artist Released From Pretrial Supervision Over DOJ Objections

Artist and University at Buffalo professor Steven Kurtz has been released from pretrial supervision despite strong objections from US Department of Justice prosecutor William Hochul.

Kurtz’s case has not yet gone to trial and motions for its dismissal are pending, but until last week the artist was subject to random house searches and drug tests, was limited in his ability to travel, and had to report regularly to a probation officer.

Last week, arguing that there was no hint of criminality or risk of flight, Zenaida Piotrowicz, Kurtz’s pretrial supervisor, motioned a federal court to release Kurtz from supervision. Despite vigorous and exceptional objections by Department of Justice prosecutor Hochul, Magistrate Judge Kenneth Schroeder agreed there was no reason not to release Kurtz on his own recognizance to await trial.

Here’s some background information from Alisa Solomon at The Nation.

Kurtz, an art professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, was working on projects criticizing genetically modified food, the militarization of healthcare and the history of American biowarfare. Despite Kurtz’s well-documented and renowned career as a bioartist, the FBI confiscated his computers and art materials, along with his car and his cat. He was indicted last June on four counts of fraud, along with Robert Ferrell, former head of the Department of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health. Ferrell helped Kurtz acquire the $256 worth of bacteria used in his project–a routine practice among scientists.