Motion aimed at silencing Irvine 11 prosecutors

SANTA ANA — Orange County prosecutors next week are scheduled to argue against a defense motion to keep them from speaking in public about their criminal case against 11 student activists accused of disrupting an Israeli ambassador's speech at UC Irvine last year.

The motion, filed in Orange County Superior Court's Central Justice Center in Santa Ana on Tuesday, accuses Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner, police, and representatives from the district attorney's office of tainting the jury pool with public statements against the 11 defendants. Defense attorneys are seeking a court order that would keep prosecutors from talking publicly to the media or others about the case.

The defendants, known as the Irvine 11, are accused of conspiring to, then successfully executing, a disruption of Israel Ambassador Michael Oren's speech in February 2010. They face up to six months in jail if convicted.

Their attorneys argue that prosecutors publicly accused the 11 of targeting Oren because he is Jewish and unnecessarily disseminated evidence of their case to the media through court filings. They were seeking to have the D.A.'s office recused from the case.

In Tuesday's brief, defense attorneys point to the district attorney's office Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder, who was distributing to the media at a court appearance last month copies of a prosecutor's arguments against being recused from the case.

Within the brief Schroeder was handing out was evidence against the defendants, including e-mails among them leading up to and after Oren's speech.

"These highly charged accusations harm the students' ability to obtain a fair trial," Tuesday's motion reads. "The prosecutor's public disseminations are unseemly and sully the integrity of the court."

Schroeder was unavailable for comment Saturday, and the D.A.'s office has not yet filed a response with the court.

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said in court documents last month that Orange County prosecutors should remain on the case.

"Defendant offers only self-serving conclusions, based on nothing more than speculation and innuendo, in support of his assertion of religious bias," Harris' office concluded.

Attorneys will be in court Friday to discuss the defense's motion to keep officials from discussing the case.

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