[UPDATED] 24 Civic and Faith Leaders Urge DA Tony Rackauckas to Drop Criminal Probe of Irvine 11

UPDATE, FEB. 3, 10 A.M.: The Los Angeles Times this morning jumped on the "Free the Irvine 11" bandwagon by publishing an editorial under that headline. Criminal charges against the students "are not appropriate" and "would be overkill" and could result in "a punishment out of proportion to the offense," opines the Times Editorial Board, which concludes, "Now it's time to move on."

Of course, given Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' distrust of the Times, the editorial may tip his justice scale in favor of felonies.

Read the full editorial here.

irvine-11-protest-ocda.jpg
Protesters unfurl a banner in Santa Ana Tuesday denouncing a criminal probe of the Irvine 11.
ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 3, 7:39 A.M.: Twenty-four civic and faith leaders have signed an open letter urging District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to stop pursuing felony charges against 11 students who disrupted a February 2010 speech at UC Irvine by Israel's ambassador to the U.S.

"It is difficult for us to put into words the extent to which this development disturbs the conscience and would disrupt the DA's ability to establish meaningful justice," states the letter from prominent legal and religious figures in Orange County and Southern California.

"Our vision for Orange County is that it be a place where all faith groups are treated with equal respect and due process of law, where no political viewpoint is penalized, and where all of our public officials and offices utilize their stations to promote these ends," continues the letter, which ends with a plea to Rackauckas, who was recently sworn in again as DA and has already announced his intention to seek reelection in 2014:

"We therefore request that you assist in ending what we believe to be an unnecessary and excessive response to the events of February 2010 by exercising your discretion to not indict the students on criminal charges."

Rackauckas, a Republican, may appreciate (or not) the letter borrowing from the 2010 GOP playbook by hitting him in the wallet and questioning his love of the U.S. Constitution. The message questions using tax dollars and limited public resources to pursue the investigation. It later notes, "Because the right to freely express oneself, particularly against government policies, is a cherished freedom protected by our Constitution, only in very narrow circumstances may these activities be subdued by state action."

Those signing the letter (which is presented in full on the next page) include: Eric Altman, executive director of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development; Salam Al-Maryati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Hussam Ayloush, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area; Issa Edah-Tally, president, Islamic Center of Irvine; and Shk. Muhammad Faqih, Islamic Institute of Orange County.

Also, the Reverend Sarah Halverson, Fairview Community Church; Jim Lafferty, executive director of the National Lawyer's Guild, Los Angeles Chapter; the Reverend Darrell McGowan, senior pastor at First Christian Church of Fullerton; and Hector Villagra, incoming executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. Mike Penn, who was forman of the Orange County grand jury during the 2006-07 term, is also among the signers.

Michael Oren, an American-born Israeli scholar, author and Israeli ambassador to the U.S., was forced to pause his speech for 20 minutes on Feb. 8, 2010, due to multiple interruptions by students accusing Israel of crimes against humanity. Campus police arrested 11 students, most of whom were from UCI but some of whom came from UC Riverside. The university's Muslim Student Union, which claimed no part in the protest, was later punished with one year of probation and 100 hours of community service.


The UCI administration's treatment of the students and MSU has drawn criticism from supporters decrying censorship and foes who believe the students as well as those who believe they should be more severely punished, including some who want MSU permanently shut down on campus.

The most recent protest on the students' behalf was Tuesday afternoon in front of Rackauckas' Santa Ana office, where about 50 protesters gathered to blast the grand jury investigation of the so-called Irvine 11.


At the protest, which featured young Muslims with duct tape affixed over their mouths, Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council, accused the DA of wasting the county's limited resources by reopening charges against the students. That contention is also made in the open letter to Rackauckas. Syed is also among the community leaders who signed the letter, which follows on the next page.


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11 comments
steveoleche
steveoleche

Will these UCI students, in the video I posted below, be prosecuted from shouting down and blocking an invited guest from delivering his speech? They are the Republican and Jewish student organizations at UCI.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Where is Tony and his charges against them? Oh, that's right they are not Muslim. Selective prosecution in order to garner some future political favors from the wealthy Israeli- Firsters.

Islamophobia and racism at play here.

StevoLeche
StevoLeche

And the baggers at townhalls and at rallies spitting at elected officials and screaming at disabled people in wheelchair­s.....yes, this might be a landmark case for future reference.

Tony is simply playing politics, and appeasing the right-wing Jewish constituency on Orange County. I personally find it appalling, and blatantly racist, to try these students for expressing their freedom of speech at a campus event that has a history of tensions between two student groups.

Protests happen everyday, all over our country; but when it's Muslim students protesting a speaker on behalf of a country that is an occupying force, and seen my many in the world as an apartheid state, The D.A feels it's time for political retribution. This is a disgusting overreach of his office. If he is going to open up this can of worms of arresting student campus demonstrations, he is going to be in a world of trouble...and if he doesn't prosecute anyone else (especially other pro-Israel groups that do the same shouting down at Pro-Palestinian events) then he will be known as a bigot and a racists who cow-toes to wealthy extremist Israeli-firsters.

Mary
Mary

I'm no law expert or understand the dynamics surrounding this event/alleged crimes by 11 students who protested and are accused of conspiracy to disrupt a meeting.

What I do know is that it feels very hypocritical and suspect to me what the DA is doing. Is Rackaucas trying to make a huge mountain out of a mole hill while he and other prosecutors ignore the tip of a massive iceberg of sex abuse cover-ups in the Catholic Church?

I guess charging the group's protesters could be yet another one of many ways prosecutors could allegedly deter attention from their giving deference to many Catholic Church officials' decades of conspiracy in their alleged deliberate, organized, repetitive and collective effort to cover-up horrific sex crimes by their molesting clerics. The evidence is overwhelming, in my opinion, yet it appears the DA and other prosecutors ignore that.

Go ahead complicit Catholic officials, keep on conspiring, protecting and shuffling molesting/raping/sodomizing clerics around--that seems to be the message criminal prosecutors' are sending out.

So far, no prosecutor has stop those crimes to protect others by enforcing the Rico Statute laws against that organization's bosses.

It's a horrific travesty of justice that government authorities appear to be turning a blind eye and giving free passes to complicit Catholic officials' organized cover-ups of child sex abuse. Not one bishop or cardinal in the US has been prosecuted. Gee, that's odd. The word unconsiounable comes to mind.

And ironically and coincidentally, that's the church Rackaucas and LA DA Cooley also belongs to?

Betometro2
Betometro2

How can the DA insist on preferring charges against students (exercising their inherent 1st Amendment rights) for abridging Oren's inferred "constitutional" right to advocate on behalf of a foreign govt? And felonies to boot! If there weren't for the additional elements of a city's private police force, on a University of California campus, arresting private citizens for publicly protesting the public statements of a political operative, I would say that it was merely bad theater. But since the Muslim Student Union was sanctioned as a result of the incident, the 11 were arrested for whatever disruption occurred at the venue in question and Mr. Oren was allowed to finish his speech, what measure of justice would be served by felony records tailing these students for the rest of their natural lives in an Islamophobic society? Or, is that really the reason for Rackauckas's missionary zeal to prosecute? Anyone out there old enough to remember the "Conqueror Worm"?

Nie4Er3
Nie4Er3

I think all 11 should be Tased. Bro.

These minds full of mush think they are making a difference? They are an ugly joke and should be punished. You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theatre. The fact that they are Muslim makes it even more paramount this should be handled directly and firmly.

Dkmfan
Dkmfan

Are you kidding???

What better fodder for a republican politician in "voting" OC than going after Muslim extremists close to home.

This is brilliant, if not elementary politics from the GOP playbook. Why this is news is more curious.

Flowerpot
Flowerpot

The OCDA is corrupt from top to bottom and most folks realize this.

Strum
Strum

The OCDA is corrupt and to ask corrupt public officials "to do the right thing" your wasting your time. Corruption has eating away at the morals of the OCDA and taken them over.

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Simple question for Racrakheadus: If the Westboro Baptist Church disrupted a proceeding in the OC, would you open an investigation against Fred Phelps, or is Jesus off limits?

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

My gawd, this might be the first logical thing you've EVER said...

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Shut the hell up stoopid beaner. ;)

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