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Mailbag: Prosecution overzealous in 'Irvine 11' case

September 29, 2011

Historically, county district attorneys have demurred from pursuing legal action against University of California students in cases of alleged minor crimes and misdemeanors when these incidents occur on university property. Instead, they have appropriately elected to honor the well-enumerated due process procedures in place at each of the UC campuses.

In the case of the so-called "Irvine 11," UC Irvine officials promptly investigated charges that a small group of students disrupted a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. In this matter, UCI found the students in violation of campus policies and meted out punishments both against the individuals and their organization, the Muslim Student Union. Conventional wisdom and historical precedent would suggest that the matter had been handled appropriately.

The nagging question is why did Orange County District Atty. Tony Rackauckas feel compelled to jump on this case and, in so doing, assign his chief homicide prosecutor to vigorously pursue misdemeanor charges against 11 students with no prior records and who were clearly no threat to society?

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Randy Lewis

Laguna Beach

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Free speech muzzled in Irvine 11 case

Thank you, Rev. Wilfred Benitez (Mailbag: "D.A. makes 'wrong kind of history'", Sept. 22). I've felt like I have been in "The Twilight Zone," waking up and finding myself living in a police state instead of the United States of America, with citizens being arrested by the police for speaking instead of heckler control being exercised by the venue hosting the event, escorting the disturbance out. I first became aware of this arrest having read your letter to the editor in the Sept. 22 paper.

Thank you for standing up for freedom of speech. I did not know all the details you provided in your letter about the history of the speaker, but now that I am aware of his past, it is no wonder he acted like a coward and left the podium. And I now wonder if, when he was invited to speak, there wasn't some thought that he might be assassinated while speaking?

The fact that there were police so readily available to make an arrest, instead of simple security to clear the disturbance, allows my mind to wander through many ugly, non-American scenarios. The country I so love and have served in the Gulf War as a civilian, the country for which men have died in order to preserve our way of life, the country that was founded on freedom of speech, religion, pursuit of happiness, separation of church and state, has been almost unrecognizable in articles in the paper covering these recent actions.

The only hint that I was still in Kansas was the fact that attorneys were making money off this travesty/farce/comedy instead of just taking the 11 out and shooting them.

Vicki Bowers

Newport Beach

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