[UPDATED with Defense Motion Denied:] "Irvine 11" Case Heads for Trial

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UPDATE, JUNE 21, 11:51 A.M.: An Orange County judge last week denied a defense motion claiming 11 college students cannot be prosecuted criminally for disrupting an Israeli ambassador's speech at UC Irvine.

Attorneys for the so-called "Irvine 11," who are enrolled at UCI and UC Riverside, argued that charges could not be brought against the students because the February 2010 address by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., was political.

But Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson ruled political meetings are covered by the section of the California Penal Code the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) cited in its misdemeanor criminal counts against the Muslim students.

More motions are to be heard June 30, and the trial is expected to begin Aug. 15. The students have pleaded not guilty.


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Liroff
UPDATE, MAY 31, 1:18 P.M.: The lead prosecutor in the "Irvine 11" misdemeanor criminal conspiracy case is Dan Wagner, who earlier this year was named head of the Orange County District Attorney's Homicide Unit.

He'll now match legal wits with another veteran homicide prosecutor as Lane Liroff has joined the defense team for the 11 UC Irvine and UC Riverside students facing jail time for disrupting Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren's UCI speech last year.

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Wagner
Liroff, who is working on the Irvine case pro bono, ran unsuccessfully for a judge's seat before retiring last year from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office.

He had a rocky exit as political foes within the DA's office tried without success to prevent the Board of Supervisors from honoring Liroff with a plaque for his 30 years of service to Santa Clara County, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

He'll get to exchange winks with Wagner on Aug. 15, when the Irvine 11 trial is scheduled to begin.

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UPDATE, MAY 26, 4:32 P.M.: Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson refused today to make public grand jury transcripts that serve as the basis for the ongoing criminal prosecution of the "Irvine 11."

Lawyers representing the 11 UC Irvine and UC Riverside students facing jail time for disrupting Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren's UCI speech last year had moved to unseal the documents. But Wilson ruled doing so would expose the prosecution's argument in the misdemeanor case.

The Orange County Peace Coalition led a demonstration outside the Santa Ana courthouse. Visitors to the courtroom included Chuck Anderson of the ACLU's Orange County chapter and Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project.

Wonder if they carpooled?

UPDATE, MAY 25, 4:31 P.M.: Another hearing, another excuse to gag yourself.

The "Irvine 11," the nickname for the student protesters facing jail time for disrupting Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren's UC Irvine speech last year, have a 9 a.m. date before an Orange County Superior Court judge Thursday.

About a hour before that, members and supporters of the Orange County Peace Coalition plan to show up in front of the Santa Ana courthouse. You can't miss 'em: they'll be the ones with mouths gagged.

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Photos by Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Demonstrators at the Irvine 11's arraignment in Santa Ana, where blue duct tape sales must be soaring.
"Justice wears a blindfold and holds a scale to symbolize that race, religious creed and political affiliation shall not influence or color the judicial process," reads an email from the coalition's Sharon Tipton.

 "UCI administrators have failed to grant students their constitutional rights to free speech," the statement continues. "Freedom of speech, protest and assembly are a fiction when the cost of exercising these fundamental rights is expulsion and the derailing of an education leading to a career as a productive member of society."

It's a mystery how the ire has shifted from the Orange County District Attorney's office, which is pursuing misdemeanor criminal charges against  the eight UCI students and three from UC Riverside, to UCI, which has already punished the campus Muslim Student Union over the Oren interruptions and opposed to the current prosecution.

Ah well, the Orange County Peace Coalition invites anyone reading this to join them tomorrow morning "in defense of the rights of free speech and protest and the ideal that all universities must remain a bastion of the free exchange of ideas."

They expect to be at the courthouse, 700 W. Civic Center Dr., Santa Ana, until 10 a.m.


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ORIGINAL POST, MAY 16, 10:08 A.M.: The misdemeanor case against the university students known as the "Irvine 11" hinges on when it's appropriate to speak, whether one's constitutional rights to free speech can trump another's and whether conspiring to do so is a crime.

Perhaps it's appropriate, then, that the judge in the case has just issued an order to essentially shut the fuck up.

Judge Peter J. Wilson in Santa Ana has granted a motion sought by defense attorneys for the Muslim students--eight from UC Irvine, three from UC Riverside--to stop prosecutors from making any more public statements about the case.

The defense had accused police, lead prosecutor Dan Wagner and others in the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) of tainting the jury pool by labeling the student defendants as anti-Semitic, declaring them guilty and other "ethically irresponsible" statements. The judge's ruling prevents the OCDA from talking with the media or others about the case.

The OCDA has denied those defense assertions, most strongly any attempts to brand this a religiously fueled prosecution. The defense also alleges OCDA bias because the subject line of an email prosecutors sent to the students' lawyers referred to it as the "UCI Muslim Case."

The OCDA has countered that there are two separate cases proceeding against student demonstrators at UCI--for demonstrations that happened around the same time even--and the title merely sought to differentiate between the one involving Muslim Student Union members disrupting a Feb. 8, 2010, speech on campus by Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren and another in the administration building over different issues like racism and rising fees in the UC system.

The students have pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy to commit a crime and misdemeanor disruption of a meeting. Each could get up to six months in jail if convicted. Trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 15.

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13 comments
independence
independence

If it was an Islamic country under Sharia law, what would happen to these students?  I think that was the point that the embassador was trying to make when he said that he was in their house. They have embarassed and undermined their educational provider. In other countries that will get you shot without trial.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

I think we all know full well that had a group of Pro-Israel students interrupted a speech given by the US Ambassador to Palestine they would not be facing any kind of criminal charges. I find it truly sickening that with all the murderers, rapists and pedophiles to prosecute my tax dollars are being wasted on this political grand-standing!  And six months in JAIL for interrupting a speech? Talk about cruel and unusual punishment!!

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borderraven
borderraven

Sharon Tipton, popped up in Pasadena today to yell her message following Gonzalez v. State of Arizona oral arguments, then she held a 2-minute protest in front of the court house before leaving. 

lydiawow
lydiawow

Ironically if the tape-on-the-mouth approach was the original initiative by the defendants, there would be no case. Something to think about.I am seeking a good man who can give me real love , so i got a username Andromeda2002 on--s'e'ek'c'ou'ga'r.c óm--.it is the first and best club for y'ounger women and old'er men, or older women and y'ounger men,to int'eract with each other. Maybe you wanna ch'eck 'it out or tell your friends!

UCIStudent
UCIStudent

Ironically if the tape-on-the-mouth approach was the original initiative by the defendants, there would be no case. Something to think about.

Century21minuteman
Century21minuteman

The outcome of the trial of the "Irvine 11" will be a landmark case, in my opinion.  We really need a court decision on the protocol permissible when one or more persons want to distract or disrupt the free speech of another.

Having observed the defendants, and having spoken to their supporters outside the courtroom, NONE of them appear to be hostile, mean-spirited, hate mongering, rotten individuals.  Nor do any of those persons supporting the prosecution of those involved in the alleged anti-free speech misdemeanors appear to be mean, hostile, or hateful.

Political activists do what they do and the Orange County prosecutors do what they do...both sides apparently contending their actions are for the benefit of all of us.  The outcome of the trial will hopefully remind all of us of the acceptable standards of conduct for and against free speech. 

The Orange County DA could not have chosen a more appropriate civil rights case to prosecute.   I earnestly look forward to the trial.

Jim Gilchrist, Founder and President, The Minuteman Project 

 

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

What is YOUR point? So we should accept the fact that these people are being unfairly prosecuted for nothing more than a bit of (peaceful) civil disobedience? What the hell does Sharia law have to do with it anyway? We are living in the UNITED STATES where free speech is supposedly protected! The only "embarrassment" felt should be by the DA's office for filing criminal charges against these students for exercising their civil rights!

independence
independence

Unfairly prosecuted? It wasn't their turn to speak.  We can't all speak at once.  What they did was simply rude.  They denied the Ambassador the opportunity to speak when he was asked to, then they claim that they are champions for free speech?  We do have laws to protect free speech. Michael Oren is no exception. Granted no law is perfect and sometimes we have glitches like this one. Have no fear, Americans will work it out. Don't come to America for higher education and then challenge our laws.  Go somewhere where there is no free speech and do something where it counts. We don't approve of political prisoners but we do believe in hometraining.

independence
independence

Then your decision is based on emotion and not reason.  If your 20 and not a liberal you have no heart. If your 40 and not a conservative you have no brain.  Winston Churchhill

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

Did you read the first thing I posted last week? Let me reiterate my point: I know damn well this upcoming trial is less about punishing people who broke the law and much more about persecuting Pro-Palestinian Muslims for daring to challenge the word of the Israeli Ambassador! The DA is playing politics, pure and simple. These students broke the law and caused a disruption, but they were non-violent! Even Jim Gilchrist from the Minuteman Project said they were peaceful! Sorry, but I don't believe in sacrificing the freedom of 11 human beings in the name of stroking Oren's ego and appeasing Israel. And six months in jail for disrupting a meeting violates the 4th Amendment, I don't care who is being charged!

independence
independence

Everyone gets upset sometimes and blurts out uncontrolled emotionalism.  That is not the crime.  The crime is 11 people conspiring against an individual to prevent his enjoyment of his civil rights. The University as the authority figure has 3 choices:  1. Do nothing and let chaos take over every forum or if you prefer the analogy "spare the rod; spoil the child".  2.  Press charges against them for their disruptive misdemeanor actions (maximum jail time 6 mos; minimum jail time 0 days).  3.  Refund their money and dismiss them from the campus for causing an international incident. If they are here on a student visa they loose their reason for being here. If they get kicked out like that no other school would have them. How very nice of the University not to shut these students up and make them go away. I'm calling that education. They have an opinion and they are sticking to it but they are young. They had a University to protect them but they gave it up for the school of hard knocks. Did they break the law? Yes. The punishment was set before they broke the rule. Welcome to the school of hard knocks. Here is a question for you.  The school receives state and federal funding and is an extension of the USDA. Yes I said Agriculture. If the government does nothing, what would Israel say about it? Where oh where is Michael Oren? That man has a bone to pick and he is too quiet. Tell me again about that 6 months in a county jail.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

So you think six months in jail is fair for interrupting a speaker on a college campus? Imprisonment for talking out of turn? Please! I have always maintained that the DA is prosecuting these folks for political reasons and nothing more. Did they break the law? Yes. But I don't think the proposed punishment fits the crime.

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