18 December 2008 - Italy recovers Greek goddess bust in antiquity raids

Writing by Deepa Babington
Editing by Paul Casciato
http://in.reuters.com/

   ROME (Reuters Life!) - A rare 9th century three-faced marble head of the Greek goddess Hecate was seized from a store in Rome's historic center after it was stolen by thieves last year, Italian police said on Wednesday.

   The unusual bust was one of hundreds of stolen ancient artifacts ranging from large earthen jugs to small saucers that Italian police displayed after recovering them during various operations.

   A probe at a small lake south of Rome led to the discovery of more than 500 miniature antiquities, while a Roman mosaic dating to the 4th-3rd century B.C. was seized after police stumbled across an Internet posting, hawking it for 55,000 euros ($77,060).

   The bust of Hecate, the Greek goddess linked to witchcraft and the afterlife who is usually depicted with three heads, was found in a store near Rome's Campo dei Fiori square.


A 9th century three-headed marble sculpture of Hecate
is displayed by Italian Carabinieri in Rome 17 Dec 2008.

   It had been missing since June 2007, when thieves made off with it from a Roman house after drugging the owner's family with sedatives.

   Italy has carried out a sustained drive to trace stolen artifacts, especially those illicitly dug up and spirited away from archaeological sites.

   In February, authorities showed off more than 400 looted archaeological treasures including an ancient fresco from Pompeii discovered during a three-year hunt across Europe.
 


Italian Culture Ministry Undersecretary Francesco Maria Giro speaks during
a news conference by Carabinieri police in Rome 17 Dec 2008.
Reuters/Chris Helgren

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19 June 2008

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11 June 2008 - Artist Cleared of All Charges in Precedent-Setting Case

ARTIST CLEARED OF ALL CHARGES IN
PRECEDENT-SETTING CASE

Department of Justice Fails to Appeal Dismissal
Kurtz Speaks about Four-Year Ordeal

Buffalo, NY

   Dr. Steven Kurtz, a Professor of Visual Studies at SUNY at Buffalo and cofounder of the award-winning art and theater group Critical Art Ensemble, has been cleared of all charges of mail and wire fraud. On April 21, Federal Judge Richard J. Arcara dismissed the government's entire indictment against Dr. Kurtz as "insufficient on its face." This means that even if the actions alleged in the indictment (which the judge must accept as "fact") were true, they would not constitute a crime. The US Department of Justice had thirty days from the date of the ruling to appeal. No action has been taken in this time period, thus stopping any appeal of the dismissal. According to Margaret McFarland, a spokeswoman for US Attorney Terrance P. Flynn, the DoJ will not appeal Arcara's ruling and will not seek any new charges against Kurtz.

   For over a decade, cultural institutions worldwide have hosted Kurtz and Critical Art Ensemble's educational art projects, which use common science materials to examine issues surrounding the new biotechnologies. In 2004 the Department of Justice alleged that Dr. Kurtz had schemed with colleague Dr. Robert Ferrell of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to illegally acquire two harmless bacteria cultures for use in one of those projects. The Justice Department further alleged that the transfer of the material from Ferrell to Kurtz broke a material transfer agreement, thus constituting mail fraud.

   Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the maximum sentence for these charges was increased from five years to twenty years in prison.

   Dr. Kurtz has been fighting the charges ever since. In October 2007, Dr. Ferrell pleaded to a lesser misdemeanor charge after recurring bouts of cancer and three strokes suffered since his indictment prevented him from continuing the struggle.

 

KURTZ SUMS UP END OF FOUR-YEAR NIGHTMARE

Finally vindicated after four years of struggle, Kurtz, asked for a statement, responded stoically:

"I don't have a statement, but I do have questions. As an innocent man, where do I go to get back the four years the Department of Justice stole from me? As a taxpayer, where do I go to get back the millions of dollars the FBI and Justice Department wasted persecuting me? And as a citizen, what must I do to have a Justice Department free of partisan corruption so profound it has turned on those it is sworn to protect?"

Said Kurtz's attorney, Paul Cambria:

"I am glad an innocent man has been vindicated. Steve Kurtz stared in the face of the federal government and a twenty-year prison term and never flinched, because he believes in his work and his actions were those of a completely innocent man. Clients like him are a blessing, and although I have had many important victories, this one stands at the top of the list."

   As coordinator of the CAE Defense Fund, a group organized to support Kurtz from the beginning of the case, Lucia Sommer sees the end of the prosecution as bittersweet, and like Kurtz, is thoughtful about the broader significance of the case: "This ruling is the best possible ending to a horrible ordeal--but we are mindful of numerous cases still pending, and the grave injustices perpetrated by the Bush administration following 9/11. This case was part of a larger picture, in which law enforcement was given expanded powers. In this instance, the Bush administration was unsuccessful in its attempt to erode Americans' constitutional rights."

   Referring to the international outcry the case provoked, involving fundraisers and protests held on four continents, Sommer said, "The government has unlimited resources to bring and prosecute these kinds of charges, but the accused often don't have any resources to defend themselves. This victory could never have happened without the activism of thousands of people. Supporters protested, vocally opposed the prosecution, and refused to let it go on in silence. And without their efforts at fundraising, Kurtz and Ferrell would not have been able to defend themselves from these false accusations."

   Sommer added that the next step for the defense will be to get back all of the materials taken by the FBI during its 2004 raid on the Kurtz home, including several completed art projects, as well as Dr. Kurtz's lab equipment, computers, books, manuscripts, notes, research materials, and personal belongings. The four confiscated art projects are the subject of an exhibition entitled SEIZED on view at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY, through July 18.

 

BACKGROUND TO THE CASE

   The case originated in May 2004, when Kurtz's wife Hope died of heart failure as the couple was preparing a project about genetically modified agriculture for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Police who responded to Steve Kurtz's 911 call deemed the Kurtzes' art materials suspicious and alerted the FBI. Kurtz explained that the materials (legally and easily obtained basic life science equipment and two harmless bacteria samples) had already been displayed at museums throughout Europe and North America with absolutely no risk to the public. However, the following day, Kurtz was illegally detained for 22 hours on suspicion of bioterrorism, as dozens of agents from the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Homeland Security, Department of Defense, ATF, and numerous other law enforcement agencies raided his home, seizing his personal and professional belongings. After a federal grand jury refused to charge Kurtz with bioterrorism, Kurtz and Ferrell were indicted on two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud concerning the acquisition of of harmless bacteria for one of Critical Art Ensemble's educational art projects. (Critical Art Ensemble is the recipient of numerous awards for its projects, including the prestigious 2007 Andy Warhol Foundation Wynn Kramarsky Freedom of Artistic Expression Grant, in recognition of twenty years of distinguished work)

   The Department of Justice brought the charges in spite of the fact that the alleged "victims of fraud"--American Type Culture Collection and the University of Pittsburgh--never filed any charges or complained of any wrongdoing, and the fact that in bringing the charges the Department of Justice was acting completely outside its own Prosecution Policy Relating to Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud.

   For more information and extensive documentation, including the Judge's
dismissal, please visit: http://caedefensefund.org


Contacts
Email: media@caedefensefund.org
Dr. Steven J. Kurtz: (716) 812-2968
Lucia Sommer, CAE Defense Fund: (716) 359-3061
Edmund Cardoni, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center: (716) 854-1694

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28 February 2008 - Lori Earley Theft Announcement

   On Wednesday, February 27th at approximately 5pm, an original drawing by Lori Earley was stolen directly off the wall of her current solo exhibition, Fade to Gray, which just opened at the Jonathan Levine Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, 9th floor, New York, this past weekend. We are releasing this news of this incident to spread awareness in the hopes that someone comes forward with information leading to the whereabouts of the missing piece.

   This drawing “Untitled” was the only piece without a title in the current exhibition. The unframed dimensions are 10"H x 8"W, and when stolen, it was in an elaborate white frame, measuring 16"H x 14"W with about a 3” depth. We have included a photo of the drawing in question, for your reference and identification.

   Both the gallery and the artist are extremely upset and disappointed by this theft.

   We have a description of the suspect and are currently trying to identify him. Our incident coincided with reports of additional robberies that occurred in galleries on the 4th and 2nd floors of the building, within the same time period. A man fitting the same description was seen in all three galleries, just moments before each robbery occurred.

   All reports confirm that the suspect in question is a white male, approximately 6’2” tall, in his mid-to-late thirties. He was seen wearing a blue baseball hat with a navy blue backpack, and he spoke with a very heavy New York accent.

   We would greatly appreciate any help you might have with finding the missing work.

If you or anyone you know has information as to who might have committed this theft or leads on possible location of the stolen drawing, please contact confidentialinfo@yourbrushwiththelaw.com.
The Jonathan Levine Gallery is offering a reward for its return.

We greatly appreciate your attention and cooperation regarding this matter.

Thank you,

Lori Earley

~~~~~

ABOUT JONATHAN LEVINE GALLERY

   Jonathan LeVine Gallery exhibits a genre of work influenced by illustration, comic books, graffiti and pop imagery. The gallery’s goal is to expand this genre beyond its Pop Surrealism, Lowbrow, and street art roots, bringing this movement to the forefront of Contemporary Art. With this in mind, Jonathan represents a mix of emerging and mid-career level artists with an emphasis on cultivating new talent and creating an environment where artists can further develop their work.

   The Gallery is located at 529 West 20th Street, 9th flr, New York, NY 10011. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11am to 6pm. For more information, please visit our website: www.jonathanlevinegallery.com, email: info@jonathanlevinegallery.com, or call: 212.243.3822.

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