Woman Pleads Not Guilty To Destroying Controversial Art

October 16, 2010
By Maria Schmitt

LOVELAND – A Montana truck driver accused of driving to Loveland last week and destroying a controversial piece of art depicting Jesus at the Loveland Museum/Gallery pleaded not guilty to charges against her Friday morning.

Kathleen Folden, 56, of Kalispell, Mont., appeared before Judge Jolene Blair in Larimer County District Court with her attorneys, Derek Samuelson of Fort Collins and Cliff Stricklin of Holme, Roberts and Owen in Denver.

She pleaded not guilty to the charge of criminal mischief, a class-four felony. If convicted, she could face two to six years in prison.

Samuelson said he did not expect the trial, set to begin Jan. 3, to last more than three days. A motions hearing is set for Nov. 19.

Folden wore a black T-shirt to court that read “Jesus beat the devil with a big wooden stick.”

“We are very proud to represent Ms. Folden,” Samuelson said later Friday. “There are a lot of people here who think that shameful conduct is not attributable to Ms. Folden.”

Samuelson said many people have reached out to Folden since the incident, and that she shares a common bond of faith with people in Northern Colorado and across the country.

“We believe she is a woman of strong moral conviction and deep religious faith,” he said.
Some believe blame should not be placed on Folden for her actions, Samuelson said, but rather on those that brought the art to the community.

“There were a lot of people from Northern Colorado and across the country who think that it was shameful for the city of Loveland to display this piece, which by all accounts was highly insensitive to people of Ms. Folden’s belief system, and I think deliberately provocative,” Samuelson said.

The piece of art Folden destroyed by Enrique Chagoya depicted what protesters say was Jesus Christ involved in a sexual act. On Oct. 6, Folden smashed the case the work was in with a crow bar and ripped the lithograph to pieces.

Protestors gathered outside the Loveland Museum/Gallery for several days prior to the attack, and more than 100 people attended an Oct. 5 City Council meeting to see if the Council would make a ruling concerning the piece. The Council chose to have a community arts panel discuss the work later this month.

“We’ll do everything in our power to make sure that her voice is heard and her rights are enforced,” Samuelson said.