Irvine 11 Plead Not Guilty to Misdemeanors; No Ruling on Defense Motion to Remove OCDA

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Dressed in formal suits, button-up shirts and neat ties, the young men dubbed the "Irvine 11" appeared in court today, pleading not guilty to misdemeanor charges of both interrupting and conspiring to interrupt a lecture held last year on the UC Irvine campus, in which Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren was invited to speak.

If convicted, the 11, many of whom are still students, may face up to a year in jail.

No ruling was made today on defense motions filed last month to remove the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) from the case. (More on that later in this post.)


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Photos by Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Irvine 11 defendants and their lawyers appear before the judge at last month's arraignment that was postponed until today.
The majority of the prosecution is based on evidence attained by the OCDA in a variety of ways, including subpoenas and warrants, that are alleged to demonstrate the interruption was a planned event and, thus, a conspiracy.

Supporters of the Irvine 11 showed up in force both within and outside the courtroom, many wearing multi-colored hijabs. The defendants stood behind their lawyers throughout the hearing, alternating between watching the judge, verifying with their respective attorneys, and trying not to look at the cameras.


The OCDA has received heated criticism from those who stand behind the 11, who include Muslim activists, civil rights groups and even UCI faculty members and deans. These supporters cast doubts on the nature and motivation behind the DA's prosecution of the young activists. The group's defense attorneys are currently advocating removing the OCDA from the case, citing four claims they believe are preventing their clients from receiving a fair trial:

Claim 1: "The manner in which the OCDA investigated the case demonstrates bias against . . . co-defendants";

Claim 2: "The OCDA obtained, relied on, distributed, and remains in possession of privileged information";

Claim 3: "The OCDA's statements to the media demonstrate bias against defendants";

Claim 4: "The OCDA's use of the term 'UCI Muslim Case' demonstrates religious bias against defendants."

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Lead prosecutor Dan Wagner denies case is religiously motivated.
Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner denied all claims as "vague, speculative, conclusory, and unsubstantiated," including the notion among Irvine 11 supporters that the prosecution is motivated by selective enforcement of the law, based on content and the religion of the defendants. In a press conference held after the trial, Wagner explained.

"The content doesn't matter, they could have been yelling gibberish," he said. "They [the defense] are making a mountain out of something much smaller than a molehill. The First Amendment rights of the speaker and the crowd were trampled on."

In regards to the OCDA's use of the term "UCI Muslim case" in emails with defense lawyers concerning proposed settlements of the case, Wagner implied that this stemmed from a secretary's labeling but was logical, since the DA's office is currently prosecuting other UCI students, and the fact that the Irvine 11 "call themselves the Muslim Student Union."


Wagner also defended the OCDA's possession of "privileged information," explicating that the search warrants were issued to Google for message-board posts, and that the Internet search engine complied.

One nevertheless wonders about the motivation behind a prosecution aided by an anonymous email, dated March 24, 2010, and addressed to UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake, among others. It reads:

Dear Chancellor Drake,

For two years I have been wondering why Muslim students at UCI have become the center of a global firestorm of ugliness and controversy.

This has cast the entire University and its students under a dark cloud. I wondered who might be fostering the hatred that goes on there.

I understand that you are currently investigating the disruption of the Ambassador Oren event on February 8, 2010. Despite claims by the Muslim Student Union that this was an isolated incident undertaken without the direction of the organization, there is evidence to the contrary.

Please review the attached emails and manifesto where you will see the truth!

Anonymous

cc: Mark G. Yudof, President, University of California
Manuel N. Gomez, [then] Vice Chancellor Student Affairs, UCI
Brad Sherman, Congressman
John Campbell, Congressman
Tony Rackauckas, Orange County District Attorney
Shalom C Elcott, President, Jewish Federation Orange County
Edgar Dormitorio, Director, Student Conduct
Paul Henisey, Police Chief, UCI
Ramona Agrela, Associate Chancellor, UCI
Diane Geocaris, Chief of Camps Counsel, UCI
Steven Emerson, Executive Director, The Investigative Project on Terrorism

For Jacqueline Goodman, who represents defendants Osama Shabiak and Mohemed Abdelgany, the motivation is clear.

"No student stood up and said, 'I'm a Muslim.' It was very political, and yet it's called the UCI Muslim case," said the defense lawyer. "These students were fighting for us all that day, speaking for people whose voices have been silenced. They did that again today."

Goodman went on to describe what she believes to be District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' "political opportunism," citing his surprise re-election announcement as one of the key motives behind the investigation.


The defense and prosecution will appear in court again on May 13 at the Santa Ana Central Justice Center to discuss the sealing or unsealing of material seized through search warrants. They'll be back in court on June 17 for a ruling on the majority of the defense motions, including the demand to remove the OCDA from the case.

The formal trial is currently scheduled for Aug. 15 at 9 a.m.

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16 comments
Bumpkin
Bumpkin

The emails showed the Muslim Student Union planned the disruptions. The students were nimrods. And dishonest and not honorable with their defense in this case.

However, I am against prosecuting them because their dumb followers will make it like Muslims are being targeted unfairly for persecution and the case provides a platform for their nonsensical comments.

The University has already punished the students. The students nor their followers do not deserve any more press.

The students are free to host their Anti-Zionist rally week if the wish to continue to provide more evidence they are nimrods. They can invite any cartoonish speaker to spread his wild conspiracy stories about 911 or other events. They cannot and should not plan and repeatedly disrupt speakers they disagree with. If they do it again, they should be expelled.

Jcmacman
Jcmacman

The issue you raise about the trial does not address free speech because the defendants disrupted a peaceful meeting. As despicable as the "church" members actions at the military funerals you speak of, they limit their behaviour and do not interfere with the burials; if they do they should be arrested and prosecuted, too. BTW the "planning" of the disruptionm is exactly why it is conspiracy. Note that the silent protest at the court by supporters of the accused is totally allowed. Also interesting is the counduct by the court is restrained. If they shout out and disrupt the proceedings, they could be held in contempt and jailed immediately, notwithstanding the free speech afforded in the bill of rights.

Embarassed to be from O.C.
Embarassed to be from O.C.

So planning the event is what makes it a conspiracy and, as such, illegal? So how do the ingrate bottom-feeders that protest military funerals get away with calling it "free speech"? I certainly hope that there really aren't that many morons just standing around on the side of the roads in America with nothing better to do than spew hate at the very people who died to give them the freedom to do so. If that's the standard of "Christianity" these days, then I'd say we're not any better than those we persecute. Free speech should be the same no matter what religion you are.

UCI Student
UCI Student

If you violate the law be prepared to face the consequences. These people lied that the event in question was isolated and not premeditated. The evidence will show that there was indeed organization and their acts were premeditated. May the court ruling on this case be based solely on the evidence and not petty theatrics.

Slottogpw
Slottogpw

They broke the LAW...regardless of their background. Shame on their attorney's tactics for trying to steer away from this TRUTH. In addition, you should see their lunch hour protests at UCI, which demonstrate hostility against the USA and Israel.

Redhogg
Redhogg

The more I read and understand about this case and the various attempts my the students and their attorney comments the more convinced I am of their guilt.

They should be shown no mercy in my view particularly because of their constantly cunning behavior. They were cunning as they planed the protest and now cunning with comments about the DA, they bring supporters this has become a game to them, trying all sorts of tricks attempting to see what will stick.

They should each receive the max allowable with jail time

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empireofdirt
empireofdirt

Why don't you say both sides of the story, like when Rachel Corries parents spoke at UCI with Pro-Israel students carrying hate speech and other signs right behind them. The two groups go back and forth, who's right, who's wrong, depends on what side you're on. Israel demonstrated hostility against peace when they agreed to stop settlements to the Obama administration and did it anyway, how would you like to be removed from where you live?

Dan
Dan

the difference is, corrie's parent's were allowed to speak. Michael Oren had no more than 3 minutes of talk time in his first 30 minutes on stage.

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