The 11 University of California, Irvine and UC Riverside students charged with misdemeanors in connection with their disrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech at UC Irvine last year pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Friday. The students are each charged with one count of conspiracy to disrupt a meeting and one misdemeanor count of disrupting a meeting.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson will hear arguments on May 13 over whether parts of the grand jury investigation will be released. He will hear arguments on the motion to remove District Attorney Tony Rackaukas from the case on June 17. The defendants claim that Rackaukas is biased against Muslims based on a reference to the case as the "UCI Muslim Case" in an email. They also claim that he illegally issued subpoenas.
Defense attorneys are trying to paint the picture that the students are fighting for democracy. "This isn't about the war on Gaza, it's about democracy here," said defense attorney Jacqueline Goodman. "It was a principled protest by top students.… They're fighting for all of us."
The students organized the disruption through the Muslim Student Union at UCI in February 2010. They subsequently attempted to hide evidence that they had organized the disturbances. The repeated disruptions forced the ambassador to pause his speech for about 20 minutes until order was restored. The entire incident was captured on video.
"They're caught red-handed," Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner said, "They very intentionally tried to shut down" Oren's speech.