The Los Angeles Times reported today that defense attorneys for the Irvine 11 attempted to show photographic evidence of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s plans to go to a Lakers game the night he was interrupted by the students who are now on trial, and facing misdemeanor counts that could send them to jail. However, the judge refused to allow the jury to view the photograph.
As the Electronic Intifada exclusively reported over the weekend, the prosecution is arguing that Oren could not finish his speech because of the protest, and therefore the students are guilty of misdemeanor charges of disruption of a meeting and conspiracy to disrupt a meeting. However, a photograph has surfaced showing Oren with LA Laker Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center, where Oren had VIP tickets courtesy of the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles. Though he was able to finish his planned speech, even with the interruptions by the students, Oren may have opted out of doing a question and answer session simply because he had to race back up to Los Angeles from Orange County during rush hour in time for the game to begin. As Max Blumenthal reported for us, “Oren probably viewed a question and answer session with Israel’s most devoted Los Angeles-area supporters as a dangerous diversion from the good times that awaited him at courtside.”
The Israeli ambassador to the United States cut short his appearance at UC Irvine last year not because of disruptions by Muslim students but because he wanted to attend a Lakers game, a defense attorney for the students said Tuesday.
The so-called Irvine 11 are accused of interfering with Michael Oren’s right to free speech by constantly interrupting his appearance as the students took turns reading statements as the ambassador tried to speak.
Those in the audience, prosecutors said, were in turn deprived of listening and interacting with Oren.
Ultimately, prosecutors said, Oren was forced to cancel a question-and-answer session because of the disruption.
But defense attorney Lisa Holder said that Oren could have stayed for a question-and-answer session after the protesters were led away but instead opted to go to Staples Center.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Paul Wilson denied Holder’s request to show jurors a photo of Oren posing with Kobe Bryant at the game.
Of the 11 UCI and UC Riverside students originally charged in the case, 10 are standing trial. The 11th student is performing community service that will lead to the charges against him being dropped upon completion.
The case had drawn attention because of its 1st Amendment overtones and the long history of student protests at universities.
Defense attorney Jacqueline Goodman said that student protesters did not break the law but instead exercised free speech in the manner of Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the very figures they learned about in their classrooms.
“It was disruptive,” Goodman said, “but not so substantial in a controversial political speech as to constitute a crime.”