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D.A. charges 'Irvine 11' with misdemeanors

Group of students from UCI, UC Riverside will face arraignment on March 11. Charges include conspiracy to disturb a meeting.

February 04, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

The Orange County district attorney's office announced Friday that it is charging the so-called "Irvine 11" with misdemeanor charges related to their protest of the Israeli ambassador who spoke at UC Irvine last year.

The group of student activists from UCI and UC Riverside is charged with misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and misdemeanor disturbing a meeting. Their sentences can range from probation to six months in jail, if convicted.

The charges stem from an Orange County Grand Jury investigation stretching back to last summer. The grand jury turned over its findings to prosecutors, who decided to file charges, officials said.

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On Feb. 8, 2010, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren spoke in front of hundreds at the university after being invited there by several campus groups, including the Anteaters for Israel and UCI's law and political science departments.

The "Irvine 11" continually disrupted his speech by periodically standing up and shouting, accusing him of permitting the mass murder of Palestinians.

"These defendants meant to stop this speech and stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting," Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said in a prepared statement. "This is a clear violation of the law and failing to bring charges against this conduct would amount to a failure to uphold our Constitution."

According to county prosecutors, postings on UCI's Muslim Student Union message board and e-mails with organization members had a clear timeline of planning that led up to the Feb. 8 protest.

Prosecutors based their charges on two parts of the state penal code. They say a conspiracy qualifies as statements revealing a common design or plan for an unlawful act, and an illegal disruption is conduct that substantially and intentionally disrupts a meeting when the rules and customs of the meeting are reasonably understood.

Six days before the speech, MSU President Mohamed Abdelgany, 23, allegedly had a meeting with other MSU members to discuss their protest options.

The next day, prosecutors claim, he posted a message calling for a "Chicago-style" disruption of Oren's speech. On Feb. 5, the group met to form a "Final Plan," and the next day, Abdelgany allegedly told his fellow protesters to keep their plans private, prosecutors said.

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