The video doesn’t lie. The effort to derail Oren’s speech is clearly pre-coordinated, and the participants are not only the carefully placed and timed individuals causing disruptions, but the very loud cheering section that responds to each incident. This was a large group effort that required extensive planning in advance. Or conspiring, if you will.
Grasping at straws to keep the case from moving forward, the defendants now object to their case being referred to as the “UCI Muslim Case,” which they say indicates “religious bias.” One problem: Which student group was found to be behind the disruption, and suspended for a time for their behavior? The Muslim Student Union of the University of California at Irvine. Now, apparently, a simple paraphrase is an indicator of Islamophobia.
SANTA ANA — Eleven current and former university students pleaded not guilty Friday to misdemeanor charges for disrupting the speech of an Israeli diplomat at UC Irvine last year.
Seven of the so-called “Irvine 11” defendants were present for the arraignment, and each answered “Not guilty, your honor,” to the charges. The other four entered their pleas through their defense attorneys.
Last month, the defendants filed a motion asking Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson to remove the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from the case, saying prosecutors illegally issued subpoenas and referred to the case internally as the “UCI Muslim Case,” a term they say is evidence of “religious bias” against them.
Prosecutors say the defendants have failed, among other things, to support their motion with affidavits from witnesses competent to testify to its facts, and must demonstrate that the “conflict is so severe that it is unlikely” they will receive fair treatment. They add that the defendants’ claims of prosecutorial misconduct are unsubstantiated and untrue.
Use of the term “UCI Muslim Case” in the heading in an internal district attorney e-mail does not show bias against Muslims as defendants, prosecutors wrote in their opposition papers.
“The term UCI Muslim is not a disparaging or derogatory term,” the opposition papers say.
Wilson set June 17 as the date to hear arguments on the motion to recuse the district attorney from the case. Before that happens, the judge on May 13 will hear arguments and could rule on whether grand jury transcripts from the investigation that led to charges against the students should remain sealed.
As in the past, supporters of the students waited outside the court and stood by defense attorneys, who held a news conference following the afternoon court hearing.
The students were charged in February with conspiring to disrupt a speech, capping the grand jury investigation. The 11 were arrested, cited and released in the Feb. 8, 2010, incident during the UCI talk by Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
One of the defendants has since graduated, while the others are still in school, either at UCI or UC Riverside.
Each is charged with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one misdemeanor count of the disturbance of a meeting. If convicted, each faces a sentence that could include probation with community service or fines or up to six months in jail.