Bay Area art gallery director gets rare federal domestic violence charge in Yosemite

FILE: Visitors walk along the Mist Trail on June 11, 2020 in Yosemite National Park.

FILE: Visitors walk along the Mist Trail on June 11, 2020 in Yosemite National Park.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The director of a Bay Area art gallery has been charged with "domestic violence within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States" after allegedly assaulting his wife in Yosemite National Park.

Stefan Niels Weiste Kirkeby, 59, of San Rafael, was arrested on Aug. 4 after park visitors allegedly witnessed him threatening and assaulting his wife near Happy Isles Bridge. According to court documents, several witnesses approached park rangers, telling them they heard Kirkeby saying he was going to kill his wife and then himself.  

U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in a statement that Kirkeby "forcibly grabbed" his wife by the wrist and "both fell to the ground." Other visitors stepped in to assist the woman, court documents say. Kirkeby was taken into custody later that day and has been in the Fresno County Jail on a U.S. Marshals' hold since. Because the alleged crime occurred within a national park, Kirkeby was charged at the federal level. 

Kirkeby's lawyer told SFGATE that his client is the art director at the Smith Andersen North gallery in San Anselmo and Casemore Kirkeby in San Francisco; a spokesperson from Casemore Kirkeby said Kirkeby is no longer employed at the gallery.

On Aug.18, Kirkeby was indicted by a federal grand jury on one charge of domestic violence within in a special territorial jurisdiction. The U.S. Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case; the charge carries a maximum penalty of five years and a fine of $250,000.

The National Park Service is still investigating the case and asks anyone with tips related to the case call 888-653-0009 or send an email to

Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:10 a.m., on Aug. 25, 2022, to include comments from a spokesperson at Casemore Kirkeby.