UCI students could face grand jury

The 'Irvine 11' who interrupted Israeli ambassador's on-campus speech last year have been subpoenaed.

January 28, 2011|By Joanna Clay,

The college students who interrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech last year at UC Irvine -- the so-called "Irvine 11" -- may face a grand jury and criminal charges in the coming weeks, a lawyer representing some of the students said Friday.

Carol Sobel, an attorney representing six Muslim Student Union (MSU) supporters, said her clients were subpoenaed this month and have testified to the Orange County Grand Jury. Grand jury proceedings are confidential.

KPCC radio broke the story on Thursday's "AirTalk" program, where hosts talked to Sobel and UCI's founding law school dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, about the possible charges facing the students.


Although the Orange County district attorney's office cannot comment on possible grand jury proceedings, Sobel said the subpoenas point to a grand jury investigation.

"It's pretty much a certainty," Sobel said, later adding, "In light of the fact that all the physical evidence was available publicly, including video of the students engaging in the protest, I don't see what the secret goal of a grand jury is, except to file a felony conspiracy charge."

The 11 students, eight from UCI and three from UC Riverside, were arrested after interrupting the visiting ambassador's speech. The students argued that Oren represented a country that has broken international and humanitarian law, and they were offended by his presence.

After the arrests, the MSU was suspended for half an academic year and e-mails were made public that revealed that the protest might have been planned in advance rather than being spontaneous, as some MSU members have said.

The organization, which was reinstated on campus Jan. 3, has more than 200 members. The group will be on probation through December 2012.

Sobel said most of the evidence is public, including the discipline letter from UCI, video footage and the e-mails.

She also mentioned it's an "interesting case" because there was no physical damage done during the disruption.

She declined to discuss the politics of the campus. However, she did say that it's public knowledge that many have been vocal with the University of California system about the handling of the 11 students.

"There were a lot of statements made by the administration and public statements made by various community groups opposing the Palestinian position, threatening to withhold money from the university if the students weren't treated as harshly," she said.

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