Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson said the so-called Irvine 11 students were "motivated by beliefs" when they disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador at UC Irvine.
Wilson said he took that into consideration in sentencing the 10 students, who were found guilty of conspiring to disrupt — and then disrupting — the speech, to three years of informal probation and no jail time.
Wilson said they must complete 56 hours of community service. If they complete it within a year, the informal probation will be terminated.
Wilson said the students had clean records and that they were all productive members of society. Those factors weighed into his sentencing decision, he said.
ACLU critical of verdict
The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said he is "deeply troubled" by the conviction and by the district attorney's decision to charge the students with a crime.
"If allowed to stand, this will undoubtedly intimidate students in Orange County and across the state, and discourage them from engaging in any controversial speech or protest for fear of criminal charges," Hector Villagra said.
"The extraordinary resources required for the criminal prosecution and trial of these 10 young men — including having the head of the district attorney's homicide division leading the effort — would have been better used to fight crimes that endanger the residents of Orange County than to chill speech and discourage student activism," he said.
Social media lights up
Reaction to the Irvine 11 verdict flooded Twitter on Friday.
While some praised the jury's decision, hundreds of Twitter users around the world condemned the verdict, saying it could have a chilling effect on free speech and questioning whether the verdict would have been the same had the defendants not been Muslim.