Geneticist pleads guilty to misdemeanor in “art bioterror” case

Read the original post on The Scientist here.

Geneticist pleads guilty to misdemeanor in “art bioterror” case

Posted by Alla Katsnelson

[Entry posted at 12th October 2007 07:27 PM GMT]

Robert Ferrell, a geneticist at the University of Pittsburgh who was indicted in June, 2004, along with Steven Kurtz, an artist at the State University of New York in Buffalo, after Ferrell shipped bacteria to Kurtz to use in an art project, pled guilty yesterday to charges of “mailing an injurious article,” according a report by the AP.

The men were originally charged with mail and wire fraud in connection with Ferrell’s purchase of samples of two common bacteria, Serratia marcescens and Bacillus atrophaeus, for Kurtz to use in his biotechnology-related art projects. That charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison under the Patriot Act — both originally pled not guilty.

Ferrell, 64, who has non-Hodgkins lymphoma and has suffered three strokes since the case began, agreed to the lesser charge to avoid prolonging the case, according to a statement issued by his family yesterday.

“I remain unable to wrap my mind around the absurdity of the government’s pursuit of this case and I am saddened that it has been dragged out to the point where my dad opted to settle from pure exhaustion,” wrote his daughter, Gentry Farrell.

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