D.A. publishes Irvine 11 case evidence online

The Orange County district attorney’s office published evidence online Wednesday from the Irvine 11 case.

The trove includes email threads sent among the UC Irvine and UC Riverside students and video of them shouting down Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s Feb. 8, 2010, speech at UCI.

The district attorney rarely releases evidence online, but did so this time because of intense public interest, said D.A. spokeswoman Farrah Emami.

“We thought it was important for the public to judge for themselves, without relying on our word or the defendants’ word,” said Susan Schroeder, the D.A.'s chief of staff.

Among the evidence released was 45 minutes of video from Oren’s speech before an audience of 700 in a UCI ballroom. In the video, the students shout, “Michael Oren: Propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” and other phrases critical of Israeli policies toward Palestinians.

The defendants, all of them young men, are Muslim.

Also released was a video, shown to jurors during the trial, of an unidentified person gathering protesters outside saying, “We pretty much shut him down” — a phrase that Deputy District Attorney Dan Wagner quoted repeatedly during the trial to describe how Oren was illegally disrupted.

Email threads among the students planning their disruption were also made available to the public. The emails indicated the protest was planned ahead of time, as the D.A. contended.

“For those who did not attend the meeting, after extensive discussion we decided that we will be staging a University of Chicago-style disruption of the Ambassador’s speech,” one of the emails states, referring to an earlier protest in Chicago.

Comments in the emails are also highly critical of Oren, at one time accusing him of war crimes, and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

“Oren is someone who is coming to spew Israeli propaganda and try to propagate the idea that Israel is a country simply defending itself from its Palestinian oppressors,” one states. “This is significant for a number of reasons, and as Muslims and supporters of the plight of the Palestinians, it is our duty to come and speak out against such a person.

“It is our duty to show the people who are going to listen that this man is a war criminal, and we will not allow a platform for him to spread his lies on our campus, whether it be at UCI or any other campus around the nation.”

After charges were filed, prominent Jewish leaders in Los Angeles showed support for county District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, saying the defendants acted illegally and defamed Oren. A small group of Jewish leaders, however, said they disagreed with the defendants’ statements, but said they shouldn’t have been prosecuted for speaking out.

The D.A.'s office was unable to discuss the case for about four months after Judge Peter J. Wilson issued a gag order in May barring the D.A.'s office, as well as the defendants and defense lawyers, from discussing the case.

“There was a gag order that prevented us from discussing ridiculous allegations that this was racially motivated,” Schroeder said. “This is a validation of [the jury’s] verdict.”

Ten of the 11 original defendants were convicted Friday for conspiring to disrupt and disrupting an event. Another defendant accepted community service in exchange for a plea agreement that will clear his record.

Twitter: @lawilliams30