YOSEMITE, Calif. – The director of several Bay Area art galleries was indicted Thursday on a rare federal charge after allegedly pushing his wife to the ground after an argument about his extramarital affair in Yosemite National Park.

Stefan Kirkeby, 59, could face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison if convicted of one count of interstate domestic violence — a charge brought by federal prosecutors only rarely. According to Sacramento-area attorney Mark Reichel, state prosecutors typically handle domestic violence cases, but because Yosemite has dual sovereignty, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was able to get involved.

According to court documents, park rangers Briana Vollmer and Stephanie Obernesser responded to the park’s Happy Isles Bridge around 7 p.m. on Aug. 5 after a park employee reported hearing a man yelling at his wife and threatening to kill her. he would kill himself before he left. The employee said three visitors also approached him, saying they saw the man threatening his wife.

“They had seen the partner threatening him, that it was scary and that they separated him from him,” he wrote in a witness statement. Rangers are still looking for the visitors in question.

Rangers arrived at the bridge to find a distraught woman sitting on a fence with her arms around her chest. The woman, referred to in court filings as ZY, identified herself as Kirkeby’s wife.

ZY told guards that she and Kirkeby were walking near the bridge when an argument broke out about his alleged extramarital affair. Kirkeby allegedly pulled her by the arm, pushed her to the ground and fell on top of her. When they fell to the ground, ZY said, she tried to scream for help and Kirkeby put his hand over her mouth.

“A bystander reportedly pulled ZY over and helped him leave the area,” Vollmer wrote in an affidavit filed in court. “ZY stated that she thought KIRKEBY was going to kill her.”

Vollmer wrote that she noticed ZY had scratches on her arms, and dirt on her hands and clothing. She said the dirt and injuries were from Kirkeby and refused medical attention.

The woman gave guards a description of Kirkeby and said he was easily angered, that she did not feel safe returning to the cabin with him, and that Kirkeby had choked her several times before.

Kirkeby was arrested shortly before midnight at Awahnee Cabin 721, where he and his wife had been staying. Kirkeby denied any domestic violence and said the injuries could have been caused by him holding her tightly and telling her he loved her.

At his detention hearing held last week, Kirkeby’s lawyers revealed that he was the “Kirkeby” of Casemore Kirkeby – a contemporary picture gallery in San Francisco. He also runs the Smith Andersen North gallery in San Anselmo, which his attorneys said was slated to open soon.

They argued that Kirkeby should be released on $10,000 bond because of his ties to the community and his willingness to abide by any court conditions, including orders to stay away from his wife. Judge Helena Barch-Kuchta ordered Kirkeby held on the recommendation of pretrial services, citing a previous violation of a peace order out of Marin County and “numerous interactions that could result in death” he had with his wife.

“When we talk about community safety, I think what’s being described here is the risk of someone dying, and I don’t think there are conditions or a combination of conditions that will sufficiently mitigate that risk,” the judge said.

Kirkeby has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court on August 19 for a preliminary examination.

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